Opinion » Editorial


Remembering what makes Whistler special



In a year when we lost a lot of folks - the roll call includes Dave Sheets, Bev Switzer, Kel Fenwick, Phil Porteous, "Andy" An Ty Lin, Daryl Stevenson, Mike Benoit, Ed Elliott, Jamie Burnette (the last four all in the Rutherford Creek disaster), Jamie White and Tyler Thesen - it's worth remembering what it is and who it is that makes this a special place to live.

When we analyze what we like about this place, it usually starts with the physical environment and the opportunities, but in the end it comes back to the people. All of those listed above made Whistler special. Two more that we said goodbye to in 2003 hadn't lived in Whistler for several years, but their contributions to the community have since become institutions.

Todd McPhalen helped Grant Lamont resurrect the Cheakamus Challenge mountain bike race in the late 1980s. He also built bikes with Maurice Lavoie, before moving to Nelson several years ago. Early in December a vehicle crossed the centre line on a street in Nelson, unfortunately at the same moment that McPhalen was travelling in the opposite direction.

Trevor Roote's major contribution to Whistler began before there was even a village. The first task of the first municipal government in Whistler was to build a sewer system. While the municipality was building a sewer line connecting the future village and subdivisions south of the village site to the wastewater treatment facility near Function Junction, Roote followed along behind, securing rights of way for what has become the Valley Trail.

This was in the mid-70s, when most people were thinking about whether Whistler could become a destination winter resort. Roote was thinking about the summer potential of the area.

The Valley Trail has since become a hallmark of Whistler. The network has been expanded to include all subdivisions and connects the whole valley for pedestrians, cyclists and in-line skaters. But credit for the concept and the heart of the trail network goes to Trevor Roote.

The year 2003 wasn't all tragedies and losses, of course. But remembering who we lost and what they contributed brings to mind some of the other quirks and idiosyncrasies of Whistler, and the people behind them. Take George Cook, for instance.

Whistlerites love their animals, particularly their dogs. But the municipality recognized there was an issue with the local canine population, estimated at perhaps 5,000: in addition to grossing people out, dog feces was starting to contaminate streams. Moreover, feces from sick animals could spread health problems throughout the valley.

Cook, who already operated George's War Wagon, decided he would get into the business of cleaning up doggy business. Last February he launched Mountain Doo, a dog waste removal service.

Fecal matters aren't the source of all great ideas in Whistler, it only seems that way.

A similar concern for the black bears of Whistler has launched several initiatives. The Jennifer Jones Whistler Bear Society was started several years ago in memory of a Delta Whistler Resort employee who died, as too many do, in a traffic accident on Highway 99. Since then the Jennifer Jones Whistler Bear Society has worked with the municipality, conservation officers, the RCMP, Carney's Waste Systems and local businesses to help bear-proof Whistler and its waste. Newcomers may require a lesson to open Whistler garbage containers, but who knows how many bears have been saved by the impervious receptacles.

The Jennifer Jones Whistler Bear Society has also been active in bringing non-lethal bear management techniques to Whistler and in educating people about bears.

One of other things that make Whistler great has also been around for years but should be mentioned in a year-end account what we are thankful for: Loonie Races. Loonie Races started in about 1990 when 15 or 20 mountain bikers would get together one evening a week. Each would put in a dollar and then they'd have a race. The first one to the finish line got all the loonies.

Today the races cost $2 and attract several hundred riders of all ages every Thursday evening in the summer. For many people they've become more of a social ride than a race. But they also offer one of the best values in Whistler. For a $2 entry riders also get a meal, a beer or two and introduction to Whistler's greatest resource, its people.