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Market for small groups of educational tourists explored



Eight years ago Dr. Stephen Milstein ran a workshop for a small group of people in Whistler. And he has never done it again.

It was too challenging to find space, he said, and rent equipment when he could easily book a meeting space somewhere else in the Pacific Northwest and run a hassle-free workshop there.

"There was no structure here to help me put it together," he explained to council at Tuesday afternoon's Committee of the Whole meeting.

He wants to change all that with the citizen-based Whistler Education Group, (WEG) which is trying to learn more about educational tourism and the potential in Whistler for it to expand.

Specifically, the group isn't interested in big conference business or setting up schools. "We're talking about the needs of smaller groups, and there are many, many, many of them all over Canada," said Milstein.

And yet, when you Google Whistler for meeting space, there is no information about smaller meeting rooms and rates and operational support, he said.

WEG has now done an initial feasibility study with the help of students at BCIT. It looked at the opportunity for Whistler to entice educational programming and training.

Milstein presented those initial findings and assumptions to council this week.

Now the group wants to do further studies to prove that there are clients out there who see Whistler as a place for small meetings and workshops.

Among other things, Milstein suggested that for the project to work it would need a staff person to sell Whistler, brokering empty space in the resort. It would also need an Internet site outlining options with rates and sizes, and it would need community support and help marketing the idea.

"We're quite excited about this," said Milstein. "We believe there is a lot of potential in it."

He anticipates this project could be up and running within the year if the assumptions and theories are proven correct.

clubs seek 2 a.m. close on Sundays

Council is supporting a move from the nightclub sector that could see Sunday closing times extended for one hour.

All six nightclubs have a license to end liquor service at 2 a.m. six nights of the week and 1 a.m. on Sunday night/Monday morning. The sector wants that closing extended to 2 a.m.

On Tuesday council unanimously supported that move.

Municipal planner Frank Savage raised the village noise issue as well as the visitor experience issue. "This has particularly been an issue on the Sunday nights of long weekends," he explained, of guests expecting the nightclubs to be open longer.

With council's support, each nightclub that wants the extra hour must post a sign at its premises for 30 days and submit an application to council and the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch for approval.

Pesticide okayed for invasive species

Whistler is at a crossroads, limiting pesticide use while at the same time controlling invasive species.

And it appears one cannot be done without the other.

Council gave first three readings to a bylaw amendment that will allow pesticide use in Whistler when it comes to getting rid of alien invasive species, such as Japanese Knotweed.

"Reducing toxins throughout the community is a priority in Whistler," said environmental coordinator Nicolette Richer.

But when it comes to invasive species: "We need to consider chemical control."

In Squamish for example, Japanese Knotweed has eaten into sewage pipes, and the district is still trying to assess the financial damage.

Pockets of the plant are in Whistler, some growing into the foundation of the Rainbow Park washroom.The goal is eradication. Manual removal, without pesticides, has not worked.

"This amended bylaw provides a solution to deal with invasive species that are beginning to threaten Whistler's infrastructure," wrote Richer in her report to council.

The bylaw amendment sets the stage for a permit application process and those who want to apply a pesticide will need to specify the species, location, size of infestation and who will do the treatment, among other things.

Councillor Andrée Janyk has taken the pesticide certification course and supports the move from the RMOW.

Japanese Knotweed, she said, is at a crest in the resort; it needs to be addressed.

She said: "Once it's up here, it's kind of over."

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