On Sunday May 27, residents of family-friendly Lorimer Ridge held a block party that was anything but typical. Rather than celebrating a child's birthday or a holiday, neighbours got together in celebration of a hard day's work.
Collectively, they spent the day ridding their beloved neighbourhood of dead trees and brush—getting rid of the dry "fuel" that wildfires love.
"Many hands make light work," said organizer Ben Thomas.
Held on a sunny and warm afternoon, the afterparty was made possible thanks in part to a grant from Resilient Streets, a new initiative from the Whistler Centre for Sustainability that provides grants to community projects and parties with a purpose.
The $200 grants are meant to foster community belonging. According to Thomas, it was money well spent.
"Just look, you see everyone having a great time," he said, as kids played in the cul-de-sac at the end of Oboe Place. The money, he explained, went towards a spread of food—hot dogs, pulled-pork sandwiches, and other treats—that sat on a long table alongside a busy grill.
Thomas learned about the event through a Resilient Streets information session last month. He then combined it with an ongoing initiative from the municipality—which sees workers turn up in neighbourhoods on Sundays in order to process and haul off yard waste—called Community Chipper Days.
With the help of his kids and neighbours Thomas spent the week before the event cleaning up a forested area behind his home, rife with dead trees and branches piled knee-high.
"Imagine if (someone) had a hot tub and threw their cigarette out?" he said, as he toured Pique through the area. "We're planning on having the kids bike down here. We'll set up a little course."
Whistler firefighter and neighbour David Rushbrook said the event was a smash hit.
Rushbrook, speaking as a resident, said that after two hot summers filled with forest fire issues, Whistlerites are gaining a deeper understanding of the importance of FireSmarting their properties.
"We're seeing much more of these types of activities, where people will come together and start cleaning up their properties and maybe working a little further from their properties," he said.
Rushbrook also appreciated the community aspect of the cleanup, how a single person (Thomas) and a party seemed to galvanize the entire neighbourhood.
"People came out and worked together," he noted. "When you have a little event like this, it allows the neighbours to get to know each other, and it creates a conversation."
Like a number of homeowners, Thomas had a large pile of debris in front of his home at the end of the day. Unable to clear it all, the RMOW will return to clean it up in the future.
Because workers were operating with only one truck, some time was lost as they had to wait for debris to be dropped off at RMOW's Callaghan Valley Road waste transfer station then return to be refilled.
"It's a great program—I wish they could do more of it," he said of the community chiiper program. "They don't need two chippers—they need two trucks."