Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

A sign and a light

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The threat to those beautiful trails comes, of course, from Whistler. It’s Our Future! It comes in the form of infill housing. Employee housing. Affordable housing. Social housing. It comes from the need to grapple with the mistakes of the past or watch the future disappear into a haze of outsized, empty vacation homes owned by the rich and the vacuous.

The sign decries the loss of the trails, the loss of privacy, the loss of enjoyment. It warns of startling increases in traffic.

And it includes the soul-salving rationalization that Alpine, because of the 19 Mile Creek project, has "…already done its part…" in the war on Aspenization.

I read the sign as I cinched up my snowshoes and I thought about it as I packed down the new, wet snow. My thoughts were interrupted only when Zippy shoved his slobbery, deflated, half-naked tennis ball against my leg to remind me to throw it into the woods so he could gambol through the snow to find it.

I remembered Eckhard Zeidler’s long letter in the previous week’s Pique. Now, Eckhard’s a thoughtful, smart guy and knows a lot about urban sprawl, planning, green things in general and he was clearly warning about just this kind of thing. Doing the math and determining the various growth scenarios would require 32 new apartment style buildings in the nature of Beaver Flats, 26 new Spruce Grove townhouse developments and 10 new Barnfield-like single-family plots, Eckhard wondered whether infill was the way to go.

He worried that infilling would destroy habitat, green space, forest, wetlands, wildlife migration corridors and squeeze out these very trails so valued by the people who use them. He was concerned the proposed development – albeit a long-term project – just wouldn’t appeal to young and maturing families who preferred a bit of dirt around them to more dense housing options.

Heck, he even raised the spectre of this whole place becoming Mickey Mouse, Goofy becoming more than just a snowboarding stance and Donald Duck moving in, no doubt to be closer to his rich uncle Scrooge who will undoubtedly buy one of Whistler’s many sprouting McMansions.

What he didn’t say, and what is surely no secret, is that he would, himself, kind of like to have a little single-family place with a bit of dirt around it and he sees the Callaghan option as being the most likely one to deliver it.

Ironically, just a few pages later was the news story about how most of the people who bothered to express a preference preferred going the infill route. We don’t know the actual numbers because the math was apparently hard enough the Muni had to farm out the tabulation to Simon Fraser University. That’s understandable. Math is hard and percentages are really hard. Let’s just hope those pointyheaded university types don’t come back and express them in decimals for chrissakes.