The Village of Pemberton (VOP) is taking its first steps toward becoming a Bear Smart community. A $5,000 grant from the Ministry of Environment combined with a $3,000 grant from the Whistler Blackcomb Environmental Fund will allow the community to begin replacing open garbage bins with bear-proof bins and replace fruit-baring trees along Portage Street.
An additional $500 has also been made available to the initiative via another Whistler Blackcomb Environmental Fund grant. The fund granted $2,450 to the Pemberton Community Garden project that includes a bear-proof garden refuse bin. This frees up the $500 the VOP had allocated for that purpose.
"Weve already started replacing the trees along Portage as development comes up," said Sheena Fraser, deputy clerk for the VOP.
"Were replacing the trees with others that do not bare fruit but flower, so the effect is still the same in the spring, but you dont have the problem in the fall."
The decision to pursue becoming a Bear Smart community arose from a Public Works/Parks Committee meeting.
Councillor David MacKenzie, who sits on the committee, said the decision was a direct result of increased bear activity in the area and subsequent citizen concern.
"We thought it would be good to move in that direction," said MacKenzie.
The VOPs Chief Administrative Officer, Lori Pilon, elaborated on MacKenzies comment saying that in discussions with Conservation Officer Chris Doyle, she had learned that one bear in Pemberton and four in the surrounding area had been destroyed this year.
"When they find a bear, they tag it and relocated it, if it returns, the bear is destroyed," explained Pilon.
Mayor Jordan Sturdy and Councillor Mark Blundell both commented on the increase of bears in the area.
"Its been my experience on the farm that with milder winters we see more bears in the spring," said Sturdy.
Blundell noted that a member his of staff had recently encountered a bear while opening the loading bay at the Pemberton Valley Supermarket.
The first phase of the communitys bear proofing initiative will focus on public garbage bins. Existing bear proof containers will be moved to improve accessibility, blue barrels currently used for refuse will be replaced and new bins will be installed at sites, including the airport and the skateboard park.
According to David Allen, director of development services for the VOP, industrial waste bins can be retrofitted with "bear bars" to keep contents from being accessed, even if the bins are tipped over.
"Owen Carney indicated to me that they are more than happy to put bear bars on commercial garbage containers. All any commercial business needs to do is contact them and make the request," said Allen.
The second phase of the program will see the development of criteria to establish Pemberton as a Bear Smart Community, the installation of more bins and public education.
"If you came here from another community you might not necessarily know that its a problem to leave your garbage on your back deck," said Fraser.