The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) and Fairmont Chateau Whistler unveiled the new “Salish Stroll” on Monday (June 29).
The new path connects the hotel to the SLCC and its surrounding trails, showcasing the area’s moss, lichen, mushrooms, wildflowers and other plants. A new sign is also being installed at the trail’s entrance on Blackcomb Way.
“This offers extra value so people can appreciate the old growth forest and wildlife that surrounds the cultural centre,” said Brady Smith, executive director of the SLCC. “It embraces partnership, something our community thrives on. We thought it was an excellent idea. It brings Fairmont guests closer to us and allows the visitors to Whistler to explore a natural setting within the Village.”
The Fairmont approached the SLCC with the idea for the trail extension — which links to existing trails —around a year ago. They offered $10,000 through a fund called Fairmont CAREs (Community Assistance and Responsibility to the Environment) to both enhance the centre’s trail system and to connect guests easier to the forested area. “We have a legacy of working with the SLCC in terms of having some of their artists creating (work) in the lobby as an animation point for our guests, but the proximity to the centre is generally a great thing for us as well,” said Michelle Leroux, director of public relations with the Fairmont. “We thought it would be great to have that connector between the centre and the existing trails they have and bringing them a bit closer to the Fairmont. Once you get across the road you can walk into the forest and the trees rather than walking down the sidewalk.”
The SLCC uses the existing trails for tours led by their cultural ambassadors. “We have had guided tours through the forested area,” Smith said. “The cultural ambassadors have a great deal of knowledge about the flora and fauna around the SLCC. A lot of groups request the nature trail as an additional piece to their tour in the museum.”
Thanks to the unseasonably warm winter, the trail has been open since April, but the event on Monday officially celebrated the joint effort. MLA Jordan Sturdy and Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden both attended. Representatives from the Lil’wat and Squamish Nations also offered a blessing.
Judging by the amount of attention Leroux has fielded since news of the Salish Stroll was released, she believes there is a growing interest in First Nations art and culture in the corridor. “When I’m talking to the media, the interest in First Nations culture is growing and growing,” she said. “We’re going to see the SLCC come into its own. With the addition of the Audain Museum, (arts and culture) will have a little more light shone on it. We’ve been so heavily known as an action sports mecca. Now having all these sorts of things in the media is increasing the interest in all of this.”