Calls grow for public meeting on Stawamus Chief Provincial Park boundary change
The umbrella group representing the province’s outdoor-recreation community is calling on the B.C. Liberal government to hold a “proper public process” for a proposal to change the boundaries of Stawamus Chief Provincial Park in Squamish.
Jeremy McCall, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C., told the Straight that B.C. Parks should follow “standard procedure” and hold an open house and 30-day comment period on Sea to Sky Gondola Corporation’s application to remove 2.36 hectares from the park. He asserted that the public consultations must happen before the park amendment is sent to the legislature for approval.
“I’m not necessarily totally opposed to the thing, but I think it’s absolutely disgraceful that the public hasn’t been properly advised about what’s happening and hasn’t had a chance to comment formally about it,” McCall said by phone from his Vancouver office.
B.C. Parks posted a notice of the park-adjustment application on the Chief park’s website in mid April, but isn’t calling for public input. The notice appeared after B.C. Parks had already provided Environment Minister Terry Lake with its recommendation on the proposal, which it formally received last December.
Sea to Sky plans to build a sightseeing gondola rising from a base between the Stawamus Chief and Shannon Falls to the wooded ridge northwest of Mount Habrich. The company is hoping the government and legislative assembly will approve the park-boundary change by the end of the spring legislative session on May 31, so construction can start in September.
McCall noted the government’s Provincial Protected Area Boundary Adjustment Policy, Process and Guidelines, last updated in 2010, call for a “transparent” review process and “suitable public consultation”. But he noted B.C. Parks didn’t notify or seek feedback from ORC about the application.
According to McCall, this surprised him because his group has a “good relationship” with B.C. Parks and is routinely given notice by the government of less significant proposals affecting parks and Crown land.
“It may well get approved, but I say it should only be approved after a proper public process and full public input has been obtained,” McCall said. “Then the people who are for it and the people who are against it should be weighed against each other, and their issues considered.”
Minister Lake declined to speak to the Straight about the application. In an email, Ministry of Environment spokesperson Suntanu Dalal said Lake would be available for an interview “if and when the matter is dealt with in the legislature”.
On April 19, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District held a public hearing on rezoning and official-community-plan-amendment bylaws needed for the gondola’s top terminal. Most of the more than 50 speakers at the meeting expressed support for the project. The SLRD board of directors is expected to consider giving the bylaws third reading on May 28.
Sea to Sky has also applied to the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for Crown land tenure and to the Ministry of Environment for water licences for the upper terminal area. In February, District of Squamish council approved the rezoning of the gondola’s base property to allow development of the lower terminal.
Friends of the Squamish Chief, an ad hoc group fighting the gondola project, is asking concerned citizens to write letters to Lake and Premier Christy Clark demanding a public hearing on Sea to Sky’s park-adjustment application. Earlier this month, B.C. NDP environment critic Rob Fleming and Green Party of B.C. leader Jane Sterk separately told the Straight the public deserves the opportunity to submit feedback directly to B.C. Parks.
Stephanie Goodwin, B.C. director for Greenpeace Canada, agrees. The environmentalist told the Straight that B.C. Parks should “at the very least” hold a public meeting and comment period on the proposal to take the 20-metre-wide, 1.18-kilometre-long corridor out of the Chief park.
“It’s sort of symptomatic of a track that the government is going down right now, which is relaxing constraints on protected areas and reserves in order for business to have greater access to them,” Goodwin said by phone from Greenpeace’s Vancouver office.