By Chelsey Walker
Whistler Adaptive Sports Program
“In 2020, recreation and leisure opportunities in Whistler are innovative, meet diverse resident and visitor needs, and are moving toward sustainability.” So reads the Whistler2020 Recreation and Leisure Strategy description of success. As the chorus of the accessibility song we are writing as a community, these words ring loud and clear for many Whistlerites.
At the Whistler Public Library on March 12, words made music when singer/songwriter Justin Hines shared his stories through song with the Whistler folks gathered to celebrate the two-year countdown to the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. As we prepare to host the best athletes in the world in just less than two years, we have a unique opportunity to put key actions in place to achieve our shared vision of enhancing our resort community with innovative and accessible sports and recreation opportunities, which promote the widest possible levels of participation by eliminating financial and physical barriers.
“When I cross that finish line in 2010, to know that my community is standing there cheering me on, is incredible,” said Brad Lennea, Whistler resident and member of the Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team.
Lennea is fully aware that community involvement and support are integral to development and success of all athletes. A series of partnerships, starting with local grassroots sports organizations through to provincial and national sports organizations are integral success factors as well. Local businesses, volunteers, local government and the many coaches and instructors are all part of the community sharing in our athletes’ success. Local volunteers alone will give at least 25,000 hours of their time to adaptive sport in 2008.
The opportunity that exists through the lead up and execution of the 2010 Games is not limited to the elite level. Creating new sports and recreational infrastructure and programming at the grassroots level helps Whistler move toward a sustainable future. The greatest amount of participation by the widest possible population will directly impact the future of our community. Being universally accessible will differentiate Whistler as a destination resort community in a competitive market.
Universal appeal and accessibility seems like a lofty goal to achieve in a short period of time. However, with the approach of the Paralympic Games, we have the opportunity to build on the hard work of the last few years and create a solid foundation from which to grow in the future. From capital projects that create a welcoming environment for all of our visitors, such as the proposed upgrade to the Village Breezeway, to innovative partnerships, such as the one that exists between the Whistler Nordics Ski Club and the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program to deliver programming to athletes with a disability, we all have a part to play in building accessibility within our community.
Whistler2020 describes several points against which Whistler can measure its success in the Recreation and Leisure Strategy in 2020. From the perspective of the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program, Whistler has already started to achieve many of these successes. The number of residents and visitors participating in innovative, adaptive sports and recreational opportunities in a variety of different sports continues to almost double on a yearly basis. The creation of new partnerships with both small and large local businesses, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and other sports and recreational organizations, around the delivery of adaptive sports, speaks to diverse markets and increased, resort-wide financial viability. Finally, the involvement of all of Whistler, through the work of our volunteers and partners, in every aspect of the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program, speaks to our sense of community and tremendous generosity.
Standing at that finish line in 2010, we will be cheering on our best athletes who have worked hard and trained for that one, golden moment. As we cheer on our athletes, I, for one, will also be cheering Whistler’s citizens since we all will have played a significant role in the success of our athletes and the creation of the most accessible, inclusive sports and recreation opportunities in the world.
This is the first in a series of columns written by Whistler2020 task force members. To KNOW MORE about other actions that are moving our community toward Whistler2020, or to join a task force visit www.whistler2020.ca .