During October's election campaign, Whistler Councillor Jen Ford took a day with her son to get to know her community a little better.
"We went from Emerald to Function and visited every single playground in one day, and it was fantastic," Ford said at the Dec. 4 Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting.
"It was such a good comparison of each park, and really, there is some pretty cool parks that no one's ever heard of in this town ... I encourage everyone to try that because it was a really fun day."
Luckily for the time constrained, you don't have to visit all 44 of Whistler's parks and playgrounds to share your thoughts on their future.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) Outside Voice campaign is underway, and a survey is now live at www.whistler.ca/outsidevoice.
"Our parks master plan is seeking to create an inventory of our current amenities at each of Whistler's parks, and prioritize what improvements are desired for the future, and develop a series of designs for those improvements," said parks planner Annie Oja at COW on Dec. 4.
"Our resident and visitor population is growing, visitation in our parks in the summer months has grown significantly over the last number of years, particularly our waterfront parks, and this has been placing pressure on our park infrastructure and maintenance, as well as contributing to some capacity issues."
The planning process will last into late 2019, and involves three phases: Assessing the current inventory; imagining ideas for the future, and designing concepts to move from planning to action.
The assessment phase is already underway, with RMOW staff having completed engineering park surveys and base mapping, staff interviews, a neighbourhood parks and natural areas inventory analysis and a major parks asset inventory and conditions assessment.
And on Dec. 6, the first round of public engagement kicked off with a well-attended open house at the Whistler Conference Centre.
"We're in the assessment phase, so I'm looking at a snapshot of Whistler parks—the eight top parks of interest—and what I'm seeing is already amazing," said attendee Ira Pettle.
As for the future of the parks, Pettle said there's a lot of potential to build and expand—though that wouldn't be his preference.
"What do we want? It could be anything, it could be everything. There's so much space, and my environmentalist (side) says don't touch any of it," Pettle said.
"I think if I had to make one choice or the other, I would choose preservation."
Bob Calladine served as member-at-large on Whistler's Recreation and Leisure Advisory Committee from 2012 to 2018.
"I honestly think our parks are in good nick," Calladine said.
Where his interest lies, he added, is in Whistler's newly acquired parklands like Parkhurst by Green Lake and the Prism Lands off Alta Lake Road.
Calladine said he'll be suggesting big picnic areas near the north end of Green Lake, but getting into the 81 hectares of unserviced green space known as Parkhurst (purchased by the RMOW in 2017) will create some issues.
"They're going to have to have the police come in every bloody night in the summer time to check out the fires and camping," he said, adding that opening up any kind of access will also necessitate at least basic services, like porta potties.
"The trouble is if we start developing in here we're going to have to put in a railway crossing. That's $300,000," he added.
While there's still no real rush to move on Parkhurst, the Prism lands should have higher priority, Calladine said, as there's a key link in the Valley Trail to be finished in that area.
Councillor John Grills said he wasn't sure if the total costs of that project are already budgeted for, but noted we'll see more in the 2019 budget.
"The goal is to complete that as soon as possible," he said.
As for Parkhurst, Mayor Jack Crompton said there have been no recent discussions about the future of the historic piece of land.
"We're open to hearing from the public, but Parkhurst is not a live project that we're looking for development plans on," he said.
Follow the process at www.whistler.ca/outsidevoice.