Stawamus Chief park expansion proposed in response to Sea to Sky Gondola project

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      A retired professor of forest sciences says land for a proposed gondola corridor should not be removed from Stawamus Chief Provincial Park in Squamish unless new parkland with similar ecological value is added nearby.

      Michael Feller told the Straight the park preserves part of the Drier Maritime subzone of the Coastal Western Hemlock Biogeoclimatic Zone, which is “quite underrepresented in its protection”. He argues that if 2.36 hectares of Class A parkland are going to be lost to the Sea to Sky Gondola project, the Chief park—or neighbouring Shannon Falls Provincial Park—should be extended south into the Britannia Creek watershed and perhaps even as far as Furry Creek.

      “I am strongly opposed to anyone trying to grab parkland for commercial recreation without some form of compensation,” Feller said by phone from his office at UBC.

      Sea to Sky Gondola Corporation’s application to change the boundaries of the Chief park is under consideration by B.C. environment minister Terry Lake. The company plans to build a gondola rising from a base between the Stawamus Chief and Shannon Falls to the wooded ridge northwest of Mount Habrich.

      Lake was unavailable for an interview, according to his staff. In mid April, Brandin Schultz, B.C. Parks’ South Coast regional manager, told the Straight B.C. Parks gave the minister its recommendation on the park adjustment in March. Schultz confirmed B.C. Parks doesn’t plan to hold its own public hearing or comment period for the application.

      Feller, who is also editor of the B.C. Mountaineering Club’s journal, said the park-adjustment process shouldn’t be happening “quietly behind closed doors”.

      Jude Grass, the Lower Mainland coordinator for B.C. Nature—a federation of natural-history clubs—also believes a hearing and comment period are needed. She’s concerned by B.C. Parks’ reliance on Sea to Sky to inform and consult the public.

      “I don’t think [members of the public] going to the proponent and telling them what you think about it is really going to solve the problem,” Grass told the Straight by phone from her home in Surrey. “B.C. Parks is the one that ultimately has to make a decision as to whether they’re going to allow that to take place within their park.”

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      Theresa Negreiff

      Apr 26, 2012 at 5:27am

      I don't believe attaching another patch of land somewhere along Stawamus Chief Park perimeter adequately addresses the problem. If you view the map of the gondola location, it will split Stawamus Chief Park in two and add a clearcut stip and gondola towers in the continuous acres of forest that link Stwamus Chief and Shannon Creek Falls. The land being removed, smack in the middle, cannot be replaced by another strip on the edge. It should not be taken out period.

      Sea to Sky Guru

      Apr 26, 2012 at 1:25pm

      @Theresa, as a friend of the Stawamus Chief, I am sure you are very familiar with current state of: overcrowding, garbage, graffiti, dogs on the trails, vegetation damage, increasing SAR responses and most importantly trail erosion.

      The proponent has committed to a range of extensive improvements for existing parks trails and infrastructure. I recognize that BC Parks do an awesome job but are massively underfunded. IMHO - The creation of value through visitation to the Gondola will ensure that the area parks are funded and managed more effectively than they are currently.

      As one gentleman mentioned at the SLRD open house, in 30 years this whole area would likely be a park. I would whole heatedly agree with that sentiment.

      Apr 27, 2012 at 10:49am

      Frankly with the sounds of this development, I am afraid you might be right and the whole area will turn into a park in 30 years - an amusement park with a shopping mall, pub and hotel at the top of Habrich and more commercial development in the park. The trend we are starting with this development is the erosion of park values through commercialization and self regulation by developers, not greater protection of public spaces. A few more trails and amenities are just a bandage on the wound that the clearcut and gondola towers will make in the middle of the Park. The proponents own submission to BC Parks admits that they expect visits to the Park to increase with the gondola. The added trails (if they actually happen by the way) may ease some of the excess they are expecting but not the pressures already existing. If you have not already, I encourage you to contact the proponents and ask to review their submissions to BC Parks. The plans in those submissions might be slightly different than the actions and benefits you are hearing in the media and promo meetings.