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An Elevated Squamish

The Sea to Sky Gondola — a project that battled to get off of the ground — is winding down its first season



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The parcel of land off Highway 99, now the base of the gondola, was previously owned by The Land Conservancy (TLC) of BC. In February of 2012, the Sea to Sky Gondola bought the 2.5 hectares with a restrictive covenant that prohibits a gondola from going up the Chief, or landing within Stawamus Chief Provincial or Shannon Falls Provincial Parks. By June of that year, the Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board, which oversees the crown land behind the park where the gondola terminates, unanimously granted final approval for bylaw amendments to the upper-terminal area. During this period, the now incorporated Sea to Sky Gondola claims some one hundred consultations with the public and interest groups took place.

The first group they approached about the project was the Squamish Nation. "We always are of the opinion that the people that live in a place know the most about it," says Dunn.

Adds Greenfield: "The ten-tonne elephant was the perception that we were going to put a gondola up the Chief — the town's apprehension."

The legacy of the 2004 gondola proposal up the Chief plagued the Sea to Sky project.

"All through our public engagement process, that just kept coming up time and time again," says Greenfield. "People would refer to it as the gondola up the Chief, the media would refer to it as the gondola up the Chief. We still get people who show up here today and they are standing at the bottom, looking up and they are going, how does this gondola go up the Chief?

"It doesn't go up the Chief!"

Opposition finds a voice

Up the Chief or not, there were, and are, people who adamantly oppose the Sea to Sky Gondola. Some members of the public have expressed general concern over the detraction from the experience of climbing and hiking in the two provincial parks (The Chief and Shannon Falls) that the new gondola creates.

Steven Berger, who helped the TLC buy the 2.5 hectare lot adjacent to the highway in 2004, says that such a project, "spur(s) ecological degradation of the terminal lands as a greatly increased number of people travel in the higher elevation regions."

Anders Ourom, former president of the Climbers Access Society of BC, initially started Friends of the Squamish Chief (FOSC) in order to fight the 2004 gondola proposal. The group was revived and reinvigorated in 2012 in opposition against the Sea to Sky Gondola. Its main objection lay with the lack of process given to the boundary readjustment for the removal of 2.36 hectares from the Squamish Chief Provincial Park through which the gondola runs.