A former NDP environment minister is calling on the B.C. Liberal government to shelve its plan to carve a strip of land out of Stawamus Chief Provincial Park in Squamish for a proposed sightseeing gondola.
John Cashore told the Straight he was “a bit shocked” when he heard that Bill 49—the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2012—received first reading in the legislature on May 7. He called it “disturbing” that B.C. Parks relied on Sea to Sky Gondola Corporation to consult stakeholders, rather than holding its own public meetings or comment period on the company’s park-boundary-adjustment application.
“If enough British Columbians come forward and express their views on this, they will realize that it is politically wise for them to do the right thing and follow due process,” Cashore, who announced the park’s creation in 1995, said by phone from his Coquitlam home.
Environment Minister Terry Lake introduced the legislation, which would remove 2.36 hectares from the Chief park for the gondola corridor. The bill would also add 1.93 hectares to the park as part of a Crown land transfer arising from the Sea to Sky Highway expansion project.
Sea to Sky’s gondola would travel through the park from a base between the Stawamus Chief and Shannon Falls to the ridge northwest of Mount Habrich. The gondola would not go up the iconic monolith itself.
Lake didn’t grant an interview to the Straight by deadline. Sea to Sky principals Trevor Dunn and David Greenfield also declined to be interviewed.
“The Sea to Sky Gondola team is very encouraged by the First Reading of Bill 49 that includes the reclassification of 2.36 hectares within Stawamus Chief Provincial Park to a Protected Area, and are hopeful for a positive outcome,” Dunn said in a statement. “If passed, it will reward countless hours of input by the Sea to Sky community into the shaping of this project. It will demonstrate that the thorough public engagement process, that has been underway now for 11 months, has helped shape the project to the point that the government can recognize its value to our province’s tourism industry. We see this as a big milestone for the project and are excited at the possibility of moving the project forward from here.”
Meg Fellowes, former president of the Squamish Environment Society, told the Straight she’s “horrified at the lack of public process”. According to the Brackendale resident, the Class A park was created through a “transparent” process in the 1990s, but the park amendment is being “rushed” through without proper consultation.
“I think all people who care about parks in B.C. have to be concerned about that,” Fellowes said by phone from Whistler.
Cashore remarked that he hopes Lake has a “reawakening”, becomes a parks advocate, and removes the Chief proposal from his bill pending public consultation.
“I think what is happening here is disrespectful to the integrity of Class A parks in B.C.,” Cashore said. “I fear that it’s putting proponents [of development] on notice that they can be in charge of the process, and that this could result in opening the floodgates for a large number of requests in areas that are Class A parks.”