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Ironman highway closures 'detrimental to communities,' says regional district

SLRD briefs: Much to discuss at UBCM; grant application for risk assessment



With another instalment of Ironman Canada in the books, organizers are looking ahead to three more years under a new contract that will carry the event through 2020.

But with both the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) and Village of Pemberton opting not to support the event as-is, there is much to be discussed before the starting gun goes off in 2018.

"The main comment that the regional district is making is that Pemberton Meadows Road, under current conditions, doesn't support the cycling portion of this event," said SLRD chair Jack Crompton.

The SLRD believes that full closures of Highway 99 to accommodate Ironman are detrimental to local communities, and it would like to see routing options for the cycling portion that would allow the highway to stay open.

While SLRD board members and senior staff recently met with representatives from Ironman and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) to discuss concerns, potential alternative routes were not part of the discussion just yet, Crompton said.

"They appear committed to working with the regional district and with MOTI to come up with a solution that will work. The SLRD is advocating for as small a (highway) closure as possible," he said. "It was a positive start to a longer discussion."

Reached by email, Ironman senior regional director Keats McGonigal said it was still too early to talk about what the bike route will look like in 2018, or if the highway will stay open for the event.

"We will continue to work with local authorities to provide a route that takes the needs of the local community into account," he said. "We are too early in discussions to provide any specifics."


When SLRD elected officials head to the Union of BC Municipalities convention in September, it will be their first chance to convene with the province's newly minted ministers in their new roles — and there will be a lot on the agenda.

The SLRD has requested meetings with ministers on a variety of issues, including illegal dumping, funding for First Nations reconciliation, a passenger rail service between North Vancouver and northern communities and enhancing tourism and regional road infrastructure.

When it comes to tourism infrastructure, the SLRD would like to see better support for cycling, bike lanes and road sweeping, "but also conservation service around parks," Crompton said. "Places like Strawberry Point and Joffre Lakes are seeing an incredible amount of visitation, and we need the infrastructure and services to support that amount of tourism."

How much funding is necessary will be up to the province to decide, Crompton added.

"These are areas that they manage, and it's our opinion that at this point it just simply isn't enough," he said.

As for regional roads, Pemberton Meadows Road, the roads near D'arcy, Devine, N'quatqua, the Hurley, and even Highway 99 itself could use more attention, Crompton said.

"I would say the province has been very successful in marketing our region as a tourism destination," he said. "We want to see adequate investment in supporting the infrastructure we promote as world class."


The SLRD is looking at conducting a district-wide assessment of flood and geotechnical risk.

In June, the board of directors supported a grant application to the National Disaster Mitigation Program for the project.

"We've done specific risk assessments in the past that consider the natural hazards on the ground," Crompton said. "Ultimately this one is broad based with the intention of understanding where future, more specific efforts should be placed."

No dollar amount has been attached to the project at this point.