The proposed $120-million Burnaby Mountain gondola project poses a dilemma for a group maintaining trails in the environmentally sensitive area.
According to Ron Burton, president of the Burnaby Mountain Biking Association, the construction and operation of a gondola system that would link the Production Way–University SkyTrain station to Simon Fraser University could have serious ecological impacts.
“They will have to cut and they could cut up Burnaby Mountain in order to put up the gondola and service the towers,” Burton, who’s also a Burnaby school trustee, told the Straight in a phone interview.
Burton pointed out that the gondola infrastructure would slice through the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, which includes wetlands, streams, and woods that serve as habitat to various wildlife.
However, Burton noted that the project appears to “make some economic and environmental sense”.
According to material put out by TransLink, the gondola system could eliminate 35,000 to 55,000 hours of diesel bus operations going up and down Burnaby Mountain. The transportation authority also claims that the project would save up to two million hours of transit and car travel time by 2021.
“Our position is a wait-and-see,” Burton said, adding that his organization wants to see more details.
For residents of the Forest Grove community on the lower slopes of Burnaby Mountain, the time has come for action.
Resident Christian Rarinca, a spokesperson for the Citizens Opposing the Gondola, will address members of the Metro Vancouver regional planning committee in a meeting on Friday (June 17).
According to Rarinca, the gondola system would cut across the neighbourhood. “They propose to have at rush hour a gondola leaving every 40 seconds, leaving from both sides of Production Way and SFU, which gives us an average of 20 seconds and a gondola will go over our heads,” Rarinca told the Straight by phone. “It’s really something that not only destroys the character of the neighbourhood but also it has no benefit for us. The gondola doesn’t stop at Forest Grove to take passengers.”
COG’s prepared presentation to the Metro Vancouver planning committee also raises concerns about safety risks. A copy of the paper provided to the Straight by Rarinca states that the construction of towers for the gondola may affect pipelines operated by energy company Kinder Morgan, and this could lead to explosions.
The public has until June 30 to submit comments on the proposed gondola project. TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie didn’t return calls from the Straight before deadline.