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Minister says Squamish will have a gondola

Other proponents looking at new areas around Squamish, according to Barisoff



A letter from the Squamish Nation might have stopped the first Squamish gondola proposal but it will not be the last time Sea to Sky residents will hear about a gondola in Squamish if the provincial government has its way.

The Minister for Water, Land and Air Protection, Bill Barisoff, toured Squamish with Mayor Ian Sutherland prior to the provincial Liberal party’s convention in Whistler last week and was adamant there would be a way to develop a "win-win" gondola project in Squamish.

Barisoff and his ministry worked closely with Peter Alder and Paul Mathews, the two men that proposed a sight-seeing gondola on or near the Stawamus Chief.

Alder and Mathews had their first draft rejected by the Squamish council because the community did not want a gondola on the Stawamus Chief, the rock monolith behind the town. The men were in the process of drafting a different proposal for a gondola next to Shannon Falls but then they received a letter from the Squamish Nation categorically rejecting any gondola project.

Given the history of what has happened to projects that do not have First Nations approval; Alder and Mathews decided it would be "unsustainable" to continue with their plans for a gondola.

This setback happened just three weeks ago, but Barisoff said there was "already talk" of building a gondola elsewhere in Squamish.

"There is talk of doing it in some other areas, the Squamish Chief is the one they first looked at and certainly one that the public have spoken on and don’t see the willingness to change the park use plan to be able to do that," said Barisoff.

"But there is other areas in the immediate vicinity that we can look at and will look at. And we will work through the same process with the residents."

With the Olympics now only five winters away Barisoff indicated it was important to find a solution everyone would be happy with.

"We don’t want to look at something where the people here don’t want to have it," he said. "So we have to look at things we can do that create win-win situations for the people of the area and the provincial government.

"I was up there to look at the Stawamus Chief and it was an unbelievable mountain to visualize. With the Mayor of Squamish, Ian Sutherland, and parks staff we toured a number of the parks in the corridor and certainly by looking at it I understand why the people of the area have affection for it."

Barisoff said it was always the first priority of his ministry to get approval from the public first before any gondola could proceed.

"We said first of all you have to get the people on side if we’re going to change the park management plan and… I know there are others that are looking at other areas that could be looked at for some development."

While there might be "others" looking at developing a gondola, the first rejected proposal highlighted a number of areas of ongoing concern, including the issue of treaties with First Nations.

Despite the best efforts of both sides, it was another example of the exasperated relationships that often materialize between First Nations and developers.

The first attempt was also a waste of time and resources for Alder and Mathews, who say they spent around $70,000 developing the proposal.

But despite the drama, Barisoff said he was not disappointed by the outcome.

"The park management plan was something that we put in place some time ago and I know that the proponent was putting it forward to change it (to accommodate the gondola). I think when we look at the park management plan and all the things that are happening in the corridor… we’re all extremely excited about 2010 and that’s something that Premier Campbell has just put so much effort into making sure that that happens.

"But these things need to work with the community to make sure that it’s always a win-win situation."

At press time the Squamish Nation had not decided on how they would respond to the minister’s comments.