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Natural Step analysis supports paving Valley Trail extension

The first practical application of The Natural Step at municipal hall has given the green light to paving the Valley Trail extension at Chaplinville.

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The trail will be 830 metres long, linking the existing Valley Trail north of Nita Lake to Alta Lake Road, parallel to the railroad and lakeshore and crossing a new bridge at Scotia Creek.

The TNS review, which put the paving proposal through the sustainability blueprint adopted by the municipality, was undertaken after a letter from a member of the community opposing the project.

The proposal was also measured against the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan, Whistler’s long-term planning document, which is currently in the works.

The reviews recognized that:

"While there are negative aspects to paving trails, and in the use of asphalt, the benefits to the community of creating a greater, more accessible Valley Trail network support the choice to pave the new Chaplinville section."

Two councillors opposed the plans.

"It’s great to see us begin to exercise this type of analysis," said Councillor Ken Melamed.

At the same time Melamed was opposed to the paving.

He explained that no one is suggesting that the trail not be put in, rather that gravel be used in place of asphalt.

The only people that would be affected by that choice are skateboarders and roller bladers he said.

As for the argument that the Valley Trail is a "wayfinding tool" for visitors, indicating that they are still on the main network of trails, Melamed said there are other ways to create the same sensation of being on a marked trail.

"I think there are valid reasons for opposing," he added.

Councillor Caroline Lamont was also not convinced that paving the trail was the municipality’s best option at this time.

She wanted to know if the residents on Alta Lake Road would use this connection to the main Valley Trail as an alternative mode of transportation.

Lamont said a more prudent time to pave the extension would be when the municipality connects the trail to Rainbow Park at a later date.

Paving this section of the trail was part of a development permit for the Stone Bridge development on the BC Rail lands roughly five years ago.

Keith Bennett, general manager of parks and recreation, said staff spent a considerable amount of time doing the TNS and CSP reviews.

The proposal was also discussed at the Bicycle Task Force.

The section will be developed with specific planting treatment to enhance habitat and control negative runoff impacts.

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