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HIT season underway

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The Whistler Habitat Improvement Team (HIT), sponsored by Whistler-Blackcomb, hosted the first of eight summer projects last week.

Since 2002, Whistler-Blackcomb has been contributing used winter clothing as well as items like computers, books and medical supplies to an aid group in one of the most economically depressed regions of Romania. This year some of the items will also go towards an Asian relief program.

On Tuesday, June 24, volunteers helped fill a shipping container with 4,500 items, bringing the tally of items donated to over 25,000 since the beginning of the project.

The remaining HIT projects are focused on the outdoors, putting volunteer hours into projects as diverse as restoring bike trails and planting riparian vegetation along local waterways.

Arthur DeJong, manager of mountain planning and environmental resources for Whistler-Blackcomb, organizes the activities for the group, and released a tentative list of projects for the season.

July 8 — Bear Habitat Mitigation and Enhancement. This project is being conducted with the Whistler Black Bear working group, transplanting and replacing Mountain Ash in areas of the mountain where there is little or no human activity. Mountain Ash berries are an important food source for bears in the late season, when bears are heavily dependent on the berry crop to store fat for the winter months.

July 22 — Northwest Passage trail restoration. This is an annual project for HIT, with volunteers working to reduce erosion on sections of the Northwest Passage trail, which climbs over the flank of Whistler Mountain from Creekside to the Village, connecting with the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Most of the trail was once a logging road, and volunteers are also putting in vegetation to narrow sections, as well as mitigating human impacts on Crabapple and Garbanzo creeks.

Aug. 5 — B.C. Parks trail restoration, Singing Pass. Working with B.C. Parks, volunteers will repair water bars and put in small bridges along the lower section of Singing Pass trail.

Aug. 19 — Assist with West Toad migration in Lost Lake Park. Once the toadlets leave Lost Lake they move through the park, and are at risk from hikers, bikers and other park users. In past years volunteers have put up signs, closed sections of the park, and even installed temporary bridges to help this at-risk species complete its migration.

Sept. 2 — Riparian planting for fish enhancement. HIT volunteers help the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group with in-stream and riparian work during an annual lull in the fish’s overlapping spawning seasons. The specific location has yet to be determined.

Sept. 16 — Trail restoration in the demonstration forest. Also an annual project for HIT, volunteers help to restore sections of the well-used trails in the demonstration forest.

Sept. 30 — Planting a fire break on Blackcomb Mountain. Volunteers will plant new deciduous trees in a 20-metre right of way created under the Peak 2 Peak gondola line.

HIT projects are open to everyone, and between 15 and 20 participants turn out every two weeks to take part. Projects are on Tuesday nights, meeting at Merlin’s at 5:45 p.m. Whistler-Blackcomb will provide transportation and tools, but volunteers should dress for the weather and the type of project. Work shifts are typically three hours or less.

Following the projects, volunteers meet at Merlin’s for food and refreshments.

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