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By Kevin Damaskie In the often devastating war waged over undeveloped wetland and valley bottom in Whistler, local environmentalists just won a battle. When Whistler council sent the proposal to swap a national freestyle training centre in exchange for some undeveloped land down the river of broken dreams on Monday, Ken Melamed, president of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, had a chance to celebrate. Walking down the private roads in Adventures West on the way through the proposed development lands, Melamed took the time to say although the battle may be over, the war will never end until Whistler's remaining wetland is preserved. "What we have here is a very narrow valley with an international reputation and intense pressure to develop what remains, and there's not a lot of valley bottom remaining," Melamed says. The valley bottom sought by the Norwood Group was property between Adventures West and Alta Lake Resort, near the River of Golden Dreams and Alta Lake. Norwood thought the land would be nice as 22 single-family lots, while Melamed and other AWARE members thought the land was nice the way it is. Melamed says the land in question is the largest remaining wildlife corridor running east and west in the Whistler Valley. Since arriving in Whistler in 1976, the stonemason and ski patroller has watched local wetlands become tennis courts, parking lots, condos and golf courses — but not this one. He says conflict is hard to avoid because there are people who love Whistler for what it is and others who love Whistler for what it's worth. Melamed says although it would be difficult to say the freestyle proposal was quashed because of the negative environmental impacts, it is fair to say Whistler's environmental community was the most vocal opposition to the plan. "I think this went down because the process of the Official Community Plan was not followed," Melamed says. "It's a victory for the wetlands, but politics killed it." Melamed says he isn't a died in the wool tree hugger, he just seems to be a guy who gives a damn about the environment where he lives. But being an environmentalist in a resort town where development is a big part of the local picture is tough. Melamed campaigned tirelessly against the development of the Green Lakes, now Nicklaus North, Golf Course. Although that battle was lost, many of the problems Melamed pointed out about the plan came to fruition, as the municipality had to stop construction on the project due to environmental problems. "You can't beat people over the head with an issue, but you can hope they learn from experience," he says. "So many people's livelihoods are tied to development and the success of the resort that they won't take a stand." Although the OCP sets guidelines for the future development of Whistler, Melamed says the letter as well as the philosophy of the plan has to be followed in order to preserve what wetland remains. "All of these developments are pitting neighbour against neighbour," he says. "You read the OCP and you would think it would be impossible to develop in an environmentally sensitive area, and then you get this extraordinary circumstances in the opinion of council and everything goes out the window." He says if council is going to use the extraordinary circumstances clause to look at developments that will push the bed unit ceiling beyond the 53,000 limit they are going to "open the floodgates to more and more dubious developments." And if anyone proposes to develop any more wetland, Melamed says AWARE will be just as vocal. "We have to stop, there's not enough wetland left to develop any more," he says. "As long as they are getting proposals on those lands to develop anything, we will be there opposing for the same reasons that exist today."

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