Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor for the week of July 26


It's our problem now, but not our fault

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) council recently took on the massive job of firebreaks and thinning of 25 per cent of the high-risk, overgrown forests in our area.

This dangerous condition now present in our valley is actually rooted in the logging industry that occurred here from the late 1920s until the early 1970s. But it's what happened after that logging that has put us in danger. 

On the west side of Highway 99, just south of Function, there is a BC Ministry of Forests sign that reads: A Managed Forest / Harvested 1965 / Site prepared 1966 / Planted 1967.

As a child, I witnessed the replanting. Scores of tree planters came to town, mandated to plant every three steps, and many were paid per tree planted. They planted everywhere that had been logged.

Looking behind that sign now, you will see how that forest has grown. The trees are still three steps away from each other, and now they touch each other! Old-growth forests typically have trees two to three metres apart, not three steps apart. If you were to ski to the valley from Mid Station on Creekside, you can ski through the old growth, but once you hit where it was logged, the trees are so dense it is impossible to pass.

Without a thinning in over 50 years, this is now a major fire hazard.

As an elementary student at Myrtle Philip Community School, I was impressed that foresters from the ministry came and briefed us on the reforestation process. My sarcasm was in its budding stage then, and I do recall saying to them that they need to change their sign to "Ministry of Forests, Trees, Bushes, Shrubs and Stumps" to reflect Whistler. 

They gave us seedlings to plant, and warned us that most would die—they underestimated on that. (I planted 10. One was just recently cut down, and one still stands. The rest were ripped out by my dog.) They explained that thinning would be needed in the future to accelerate the forests' growth to maturity and reduce fire hazards. They would cull the weaker trees so the stronger ones would have more room to grow, while making the forest less flammable. They explained that trees fighting one another was not the ideal, and some would win and the losers would die a slow death and become a fire hazard.

That is what I see today. 

Forgotten somewhere in time, though, that planned thinning never occurred—at least not until recently, and only by the RMOW—a token amount with respect to the entire problem. 

What happened?

Perhaps it was the economic crash of the early 1980s, with interest rates of 20 per cent and massive spending cuts, so that thinning was deferred to another residing government.

Cutting costs, not trees, was the focus of governments through the 1980s and 1990s. And there was a time when cutting any tree was not politically correct. 

So does this excuse the duty of care on the part of province? Does transferring this land to the RMOW absolve obligations. When the trees were logged, the B.C. government charged stumpage fees to the logging companies and collected taxes. Since then, the government has not maintained what they replanted, and in 1975, we inherited this problem, as those forests went from B.C. government control to RMOW. 

A town of about 10,000 should not have to bear the costs alone, nearly $60 million in today's dollars.

All Whistler and area stakeholders need to be engaged, and I believe the next council must be more assertive with the province on this issue. (When Victoria learns how much they can lose, I am sure they will chip in.)

Once that fire starts, that $1.5 million per day tax revenue that flows down the road from Whistler to government will immediately stop, do a 180-degree turn (maybe even right in front of their "Managed Forest" sign) and have to start flowing the other way, as in addition to all the hard costs of fighting the fire, Alberta paid Fort McMurray $107.25 million to rebuild.

I guess all those foresters that came to Myrtle Philip school have since retired.

Lance Bright

Housing Crisis, what crisis?

Maybe some homeowners that didn't have time to come back to Whistler to take down their Christmas decorations (make us feel there is no housing crisis). Or maybe they decorated their houses in advance for next December?

In all our neighbourhoods, we know at least 10 houses like this; on the other hand, all locals know at least 10 long-term residents that are leaving town because of the housing situation (yesterday I was chatting with a person who has been here for 35 years who is now in this situation).

Plus, we have all heard about and suffered local business staff shortages.

So, let's start backwards—local businesses are desperate for employees plus long-time locals are leaving town plus a lot of houses are empty year round.

It's not quantum physics. You don't have to be Albert Einstein (or Sheldon Cooper for The Big Bang Theory fans), to realize that there is something really wrong with this equation. 

For the last 20 years, Whistler council has been thinking about this problem and it has come up with some politically correct plans, but they have never showed real results.

We'll keep on doing that same thing expecting different results.

Maybe it's time to look for some insane Albert Einsteins and Sheldon Coopers that want to look for out-of-the-box, politically incorrect but practical solutions to this problem.

A lot of things are happening so close to Whistler to mitigate the housing crisis, and not in Hong Kong or Monaco, not even in Quebec. They are happening right now in B.C.

We are a lucky town, we have a lot of Einstein and Cooper brains locally with no personal agendas.

Election time is coming, so, start thinking about this.

Jorge Ravenna

Pickleball Picnic

Sunday, July 8 turned out to be a great day as the members of the Mature Action Community met the members of the Tennis Club for an afternoon of trying out this new game—Pickle Ball.

A fun time ensued and everyone agreed that a Pickle Ball League should be started. The afternoon culminated in a great barbecue with Nesters Market providing all the chicken, and members of both clubs thoroughly enjoyed it. We want to thank Nesters Market for once again supporting this annual summer event.

Stacey Murl
Chair, Mature Action Community

Summer pass failure

Last year, I bought a Whistler Blackcomb (WB) unlimited seasons pass and paid a bit more so I could have access in winter and the following summer for sightseeing.

I bought the WB unlimited pass rather than EPIC for that reason. I used it a few times in May and it worked, but this weekend, I used it and was denied access to the lift then was told that I had to pay for a summer lift pass for $90.

I wanted to go up a lot more this summer for hiking, but not anymore.

What a terrible time to change the pass product when people with WB unlimited passes are expecting to use their pass for this summer.

Thanks Vail Resorts for poor communication on this change and for gouging our wallets yet again. For anyone that has a WB unlimited pass from last season, be aware of summer updates on the pass, you'll have to get a summer sightseeing pass! 

Jo Liu

Grant gratitude

The Pemberton Farmers' Market (PFMA) would like to express its gratitude to the Real Estate Association of Whistler (REAW) for its community grant again this year.

REAW community funding is supporting the PFMA arts and culture series at the market for the second year running.In addition to our weekly live music performances, this year the arts and culture series will provide five free events open to visitors to our market. We are pleased to host two local artists for live art demos, two chef demos and one family yoga day at the market.On July 27, catch Kylie T. Millar, an encaustic wax artist, then on Aug. 3 see Levi Nelson, a renowned Lil'Wat Nation artist and on Aug. 31 enjoy Family Yoga day at the market. On Sept. 7 we will host Market Produce Goes to School: Healthy Lunches chef demo and on Oct. 5 there will be a Market Produce Does Thanksgiving chef demonstration.The Pemberton Farmers' Market appreciates this grant from the REAW that allows us to host these events for the community.

We value greatly the opportunity to continue to support our local artists and musicians as well as our vendors. They are all integral to the beautiful community spirit that thrives at our market.

Molli Reynolds
PFMA Market Manager