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Driving range site harbours rare trees: forester By Chris Woodall Developer Park Georgia is determined to go ahead with its plans to build a golf training facility, including a driving range, in a stand of forest populated by a rare hybrid of spruce tree. The tree is a "roche spruce," a cousin of but different from the sitka spruce. It thrives in areas close to rivers that flood periodically, says Tom Cole, a professional forester who has spoken to several "stakeholders" in the land to be developed. Dyking along that creek prevents flooding now. The tree isn't about to be extinct, "but it's certainly rare if you look at the whole watershed," Cole says. "The trees only show up in a few spots in the province." In 1990, when the land was re-zoned, the municipality required Park Georgia to build a driving range golf facility as a condition of development of the Whistler Racquet and Golf Resort facility and the Hyatt hotel, which will begin construction this spring. Last year the municipality rescinded the golf facility as a condition of development, in the hope that Park Georgia would drop it. In 1996, Cole escorted then-Whistler mayor Ted Nebbeling through the forest in question, located in and around Fitzsimmons Creek, where the extension of Blackcomb Way runs to the Shoestring Lodge. Cole recently met environment watchdogs AWARE to fill its members in on what the forest contains. A driving range and putting and chipping area is approximately slated for the north-east corner of Blackcomb Way and Lorimer Road. "A driving range doesn't make much sense," Cole says. "The area next to the river is unique to anywhere else in the valley." The forest there includes some of the largest trees in the core village area. "It seems hideous that we would have to send people several kilometres to see the Ancient Cedars when we can now walk across the street to see large trees," Cole says. He has written to Park Georgia to attempt to convince them to let the land go. Their reply is to point out that Park Georgia has complied with all municipal council's zoning amendments that gave Park Georgia specific development rights in exchange for giving the public specific amenities, says consultant Jim Moodie in a letter to Cole. Some of those amenities include dedication of 10 acres in parks, and $2 million to develop park trails, roads and services, Moodie writes. "The golf teaching facility has always been an integral part of the Whistler Racquet and Golf Resort," Moodie writes. "The development approval requires that a treed buffer zone be provided around the perimeter of the golf facility. In addition to this, several areas that contain significant tree clusters are protected by covenant," Moodie writes in defence of the summertime activity. "Park Georgia believes it has fulfilled its commitments to the community which were agreed to at the time of the amendments," Moodie writes. "Park Georgia now looks forward to developing the property as approved under the zoning."

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