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.”