Park-use permit for Squamish’s Sea to Sky Gondola in “final stages”
A park-use permit for the controversial Sea to Sky Gondola project in Squamish has not yet been issued but is in its “final stages of review and approvals”.
B.C. Ministry of Environment spokesperson Stuart Bertrand provided this update on Thursday (October 18), in an email denying the Georgia Straight’s request for an interview with B.C. Parks.
The park-use permit represents the last major regulatory hurdle for the gondola project at Stawamus Chief Provincial Park. However, Friends of the Squamish Chief, a group opposed to the gondola, has lodged a complaint with B.C. ombudsperson Kim Carter regarding B.C. Parks’ handling of the proposal.
In an email today (October 19), Sea to Sky Gondola Corporation general manager Jayson Faulkner said he was unavailable for an interview. With the park-permit process wrapping up, Faulkner—a Whistler resort municipality councillor—noted the Squamish-based company is moving on to the “next phase of planning”.
On September 27, the ministry placed advertisements in Squamish and Whistler newspapers, advising the public of its intention to issue a park-use permit allowing “commercial gondola” activity in the Stawamus Chief Protected Area.
The B.C. Liberal government created the protected area on June 22 in a 2.36-hectare corridor it removed from the Class A provincial park that same day. On May 31, the legislative assembly had approved the park-boundary change sought by Sea to Sky.
On August 9, FOSC filed its complaint with the B.C. ombudsperson, arguing that the process leading to the amending of the provincial park’s boundaries was unfair to the public. The group had asked the ministry to hold off on issuing a park-use permit while its complaint remains in the hands of the ombudsperson’s office.
“FOSC requests that the Ombudsperson investigate this matter, and report as to whether the Ministry has complied with statutory and policy requirements, and the process has been administratively fair,” FOSC organizer Anders Ourom wrote in an August 28 letter to the ombudsperson. “If during your investigation the Ministry concedes that the process has been flawed, and agrees to substantive improvements, that may be an acceptable result, depending on discussions then.”
The office of the ombudsperson doesn’t discuss pending complaints with the media. According to its website, the ombudsperson investigates complaints to “determine whether public agencies have acted fairly and reasonably, and whether their actions and decisions were consistent with relevant legislation, policies and procedures”.
Back on May 23, representatives of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s B.C. chapter, the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C., the Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C., and Sierra Club B.C. penned a joint letter to B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake, arguing that there was “not complete compliance” with the Provincial Protected Area Boundary Adjustment Policy, Process and Guidelines in this case.
Sea to Sky’s gondola would rise from a base between the Stawamus Chief and Shannon Falls to the wooded ridge northwest of Mount Habrich. It would not ascend the Chief itself.
The company has already won approvals from the District of Squamish, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, and B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for the project.