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AWARE on solid ground



Environmental group tackled big issues last year, but remains committed to its routes

WHAT: AWARE annual general meeting

WHO: Joe Foy, director of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee

WHERE: Mt. Currie Ballroom, Delta Whistler Resort

WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 19 th , 6 to 9 p.m.

Over the past few years, the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment has been elevated from the position of a grass roots environmental group to a key environmental advocate for the Sea to Sky corridor.

Members currently sit on various Olympic bid committees, including transportation and the environment, and AWARE is the only environmental group with a member on the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan round table. They have backed a well-publicized campaign to preserve the South Chilcotin Mountains as a provincial park, and helped to keep the public focus on the contentious Elaho and Sims valleys. AWARE was also at the forefront of the Whistler’s bid to become the first sustainable town as an early adopter of The Natural Step, and remains committed to moving the process forward.

But while the profile of the group has been raised to a new level, it’s clear that the group is still true to its grass routes. Some of their biggest successes of last year include a local wetlands project, and the forward progress that has been made on a central composting facility.

"Over the past year, we’ve been very effective in raising money and putting it towards projects," said Mitch Rhodes, who is wrapping up his second term as AWARE president at the group’s annual general meeting on Sunday. "People in the group feel AWARE is in a healthy place financially, and with the human resources we have – we have a very strong board, with good people, and good credibility in the community. We want to continue that."

Rhodes is particularly pleased with the recent developments that make it likely that Whistler and other communities in the corridor will be able to benefit from a central composting centre, probably within the next year.

When AWARE was started in 1989, the main focus of the group was to start a municipal recycling program. With members leading the way, creating their own program, the municipality soon followed suit.

Three years ago, Rhodes’ first year with the group, AWARE polled its membership to determine which of the 106 issues that currently had folders in the filing cabinet should be a priority for the group. One of those issues was composting.

In the past three years, AWARE supported education programs at the school and in the community, and helped to nudge the municipality and Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) towards the idea of a central facility.