The municipality presented its response to the BC Parks Draft Garibaldi Park Management Plan Tuesday (Jan. 22), and in an indication of the controversy the provincial plan has attracted in the community, council’s first dissenting vote since being elected over a year ago was cast.
Coun. Jayson Faulkner cast the lone objecting vote to the administrative report, citing several concerns with some of the more contentious items in the plan. Faulkner is council’s representative on the municipal Forest and Wildland Advisory Committee (FWAC) and is the chair of the Spearhead Huts Committee. Both groups were consulted during the muni’s drafting of the response.
“One of the big concerns that came out was that by including heli-skiing in the draft management plan language, that effectively you entrench a perpetuity for heli-skiing in the park,” said Faulkner, relaying FWAC’s issues with BC Parks and the municipality supporting Whistler Heli-Skiing’s continued operation in the park. Their current operating tenure in Garibaldi expires in 2016.
Faulkner said the heli-ski operator’s proximity to the proposed site of several Spearhead Huts, an initiative that was supported by the province and the RMOW in the plan, could cause conflict with other user groups.
“You can imagine the potential problems of a hut that’s 150, 200 metres away from where helicopters could be landing,” he said.
The RMOW response was mostly aligned with BC Parks’ future vision for the area, except regarding the inclusion of Whistler’s most popular summer sport, mountain biking, which the province refused to consider in their updated draft plan released in November, citing concerns over environmental impact and conflicts with other user groups.
A BC Parks survey saw over 80 per cent of respondents in favour of including increased mountain biking access in Garibaldi in some form.
“The RMOW is supportive of an ongoing, collaborative dialogue between BC Parks, RMOW and other relevant stakeholders regarding the potential addition of cross-country mountain biking as a park use,” read the municipality’s response.
Municipal staff came to this conclusion after considerable consultation with resort stakeholders like the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA), who revealed their preliminary vision for a one-way ascending trail connecting the Village to the Singing Pass area and an additional alpine loop around the Musical Bumps in a meeting with BC Parks last week.
“WORCA and RMOW staff are completely aligned in our response to BC Parks,” said WORCA’s director of planning Emily Mann.
Not everyone in the community is happy about the muni’s inclusion of mountain biking in the response, however.
“Many people worry that some bikers will be tempted to ride over the meadows when they get up into the alpine,” said Kurt Mueller, chair of the Hiking Trail Task Force, created in 2010 in response to the deteriorating condition of many of Whitsler’s hiking trails. “We are not saying shut the door. Perhaps the future Sproatt (Mountain) trails could be a trial phase and if that works out, the BC Parks people may have more confidence in allowing bikes in future plans.”
WORCA is currently working with the RMOW to develop a multi-use trail system on Sproatt.
FWAC shared some of the same concerns as the hiking task force, specifically over the potential for riders to enter the Musical Bumps area via the Whistler Bike Park.
“There wasn’t any discussion or plan about how you discern or get a difference between guys on 40-pound downhill bikes accessing into the park and then riding the downhill section by coming up the lifts,” said Faulkner. “There wasn’t really any clear understanding of how that happened so FWAC supported BC Parks’ position on that.”
In spite of Faulkner’s opposition, the muni’s response passed Tuesday, and will be sent to BC Parks for consideration.
The province will review the RMOW’s input before sending the plan to the federal Ministry of Environment for approval, expected in April.