Minutes from her doorstep in the cool forest where there’s temporary respite from the day’s heat, Maureen Rickli points to abundant berry bushes.
This is a beloved spot where she has been berry picking for 20 years, where she collects ripe blueberries to make jam and pie. It’s where mountain bikers, snowmobilers and hikers travel too, and where neighbourhood kids often take their toboggans on a winter’s afternoon.
Rickli does not want to see this special place swallowed up by more development, and she’s been lobbying for years to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“I’m proud to be NIMBY (Not In My Backyard),” said the Alpine Meadows resident.
That’s why when surveyors were spotted on the Crown land last week several residents in the area became very concerned about the future of their neighbourhood.
According to the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the surveyors are working for the provincial government as part of their obligations to transfer the Crown land into the municipality’s hands.
The land is part of Whistler’s Olympic land bank legacy — 300 acres of Crown land in the valley that can be used in the future to build employee housing.
Some 78 acres of the land bank stretches from Alpine Meadows, behind the new Rainbow subdivision, towards Emerald Estates. This portion will be shared between the Resort Municipality of Whistler and First Nations as “tenants in common.”
The land is not separated or divided between the two — if any development is to occur it would be done by Whistler and the First Nations.
RMOW administrator Bill Barratt is aware of the concerns of Alpine Meadows residents. He not only assures that the development of those lands will not be happening any time soon — if it ever happens — but also, any development would be directly above the proposed Rainbow subdivision and not at the edge of Alpine. That’s why the Rainbow developers are required to build a road linking into the lands beyond.
“It only moves forward through the Rainbow subdivision,” said Barratt this week.
“If there was any development it would start there. And there may never be any development next to Alpine.”
But that’s not enough of an assurance for Rickli. As president of the Society For Preservation of Crown Land, an organization she formed, Rickli is looking to get the 20 acres of land at the end of her road in Alpine Meadows preserved as park.
“I’m just a Crown land advocate,” she said. “Someone has to stand up for the environment.”
Almost 10 years ago Rickli was embroiled in the same battle when council was considering an application by the Crown to turn seven acres of the Alpine North land into a subdivision as an extension of Valley Drive. It was to include 14 single-family lots as well as some employee housing.
Rickli lobbied hard against that proposal then, gathering 80 signatures in a petition to save the land. The proposal was defeated by council close to the time they approved the 19 Mile Creek employee housing development at the entrance to Alpine Meadows.
Realtor Drew Meredith was involved in that deal and said he is not involved with the latest surveying work. He understands how the Alpine residents feel about that land, calling it “a beautiful little oasis.”
At the same, it’s a flat site, with good views and sun exposure that would be easy to develop.
“It’s probably one of the best pieces of land left in the municipality,” he said.
However, it is not on the municipal radar screen for development.
“All we were doing when we were going for the land bank was protecting the future of this community for resident housing and that’s what the land is for,” said Barratt. “The fact is there wasn’t a lot of Crown land that was suitable.”
Squamish First Nations Chief Gibby Jacob said recently that First Nations have not yet signed their Olympic land bank deal with the province. Any land they get within municipal boundaries must conform to Whistler’s Official Community Plan and as such, they would need development rights in order to develop market lots.
The Crown has more than 200 Whistler bed units in its hands. To develop one single family homes takes six bed units.