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Highway plans not without controversies

Second open house meeting on Sea to Sky Highway Improvement Project tonight



The first of two public open houses on the proposed improvements for the Brandywine-Function Junction section of Highway 99 took place on Saturday at the Westin Resort. The second meeting takes place tonight (Thursday, April 7) in the Whistler Municipal Hall Council Chambers from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Although it’s a relatively short section of the road, it includes the proposed gateway to Whistler, access to the Brandywine and Callaghan valleys, accesses to Brew Creek and Garibaldi Park, the sewage treatment plant, and two railway crossings.

The proposed new highway will see a third lane added, as well as wider shoulders for cyclists and for people to pull over. The grade of the road will also be improved, while the finished road will have fewer corners and gentler curves. Both railway crossings will also see new overpasses to eliminate stoppages along the route.

Still, while most people who attended the meeting liked the improvements, several concerns were raised.

Shawn Wilson, the owner and operator of Blackcomb Snowmobile and Whistler ATV, was extremely concerned about his trails and access.

"This whole time I’ve been promoting the Olympics and they’ve promised me that I won’t be affected. Then they decided this summer to build a road from the Callaghan to the Brandywine and to close our highway access," he said.

According to the plans on display, there’s an option to close the Brandywine Forest Service Road, which includes a public parking lot for recreational snowmobilers and access to Blackcomb Snowmobile’s base area. The road will be relocated with a 500 metre section that connects to the Callaghan West Forest Service Road, which will provide a second access to the Whistler Nordic Centre. The second access to the Callaghan was requested by RCMP and VANOC for security reasons.

As a result, all recreational snowmobilers and Wilson will have to use the new road to access the Brandywine. The road will also cut through Wilson’s tenure area, forcing him to change his operations.

"I will lose all of my beginner terrain for snowmobiles and ATV’s… and I may have to move my base camp," he said.

Under a new tenure agreement with Land and Water B.C., the government reserved the right to change Wilson’s tenure without compensation. With no other options on the table, Wilson said he felt he had to sign that agreement to keep his tenure.

He believes that the government did not have all the facts regarding the number of people that use the current Brandywine access. Rather than close the access he would like to see the highway improvements make it easier to turn on and off the road at the intersection.

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