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Pemberton disillusioned with Olympics

'We have yet to realize one benefit from the Games,' mayor says in letter to VANOC

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Pemberton's support for the Olympic Games is wearing thin.

That is the impression one takes away from a strongly-worded letter to VANOC CEO John Furlong in which Mayor Jordan Sturdy expresses severe frustration with the Olympic Organizing Committee and its alleged refusal to pay for a park and ride facility in Pemberton.

That issue then serves as a kind of segue into Pemberton's broader issues with the 2010 Games - specifically, the fact it doesn't feel it will get a legacy as promised.

"We have yet to realize one benefit from the Games and it is becoming increasingly hard to remain supportive, to continue to galvanize the community and ultimately to find anything positive from our experience," Sturdy wrote.

"Council is struggling to keep the community on side as every investment and opportunity to date has been lost while our neighbours to the south have received $750,000 for a sports legacy program."

The letter came after council rose with report from an in camera meeting on Nov. 17. At that meeting council resolved to send correspondence to Furlong expressing Pemberton's frustration regarding the park and ride. The letter, however, is dated Nov. 9, eight full days before council actually decided to send it.

The letter was not contained in the most recent council package. Pique had to specifically request that the Village of Pemberton release it, which it did on Saturday morning.

Sturdy said in a previous story that the idea of a park and ride was first presented to Pemberton by VANOC and B.C. Transit. The village later went to them with a proposal that could cost $400,000, but VANOC responded that they had no money, according to the mayor.

VANOC wouldn't comment at the time, pending ongoing discussions regarding a facility.

Maureen Douglas, director of Operations Communications for VANOC in the Sea to Sky region, said in a prepared statement this week that the committee is engaged in ongoing discussions with the village about a park and ride.

"We look forward to finding a solution soon," Douglas stated.

But park and rides aren't the only issue touched upon in the letter. In it Sturdy outlines a host of concerns he has with the organizing committee and relates his community's struggle to find a place in the Olympic Games.

Last year the community hoped to host the Jamaican bobsled team at the Copperdome Lodge while it trained at the Whistler Sliding Centre. But that fell by the wayside when the team couldn't get enough time to train and thus had to relocate to Utah.

Pemberton's next big hope for a place in the Games was a security camp to be located in its industrial park, about five kilometres east of the village, but Contemporary Security Canada (CSC) decided to locate its personnel in the Rainbow neighbourhood in Whistler.

Sturdy stormed out of the Whistler council meeting where the Resort Municipality approved a temporary permit to allow the camp there - despite knowing for a month that CSC would not locate its staff in Pemberton.

Now he's taken his frustration right to VANOC's door.

"Our community has continued to remain positive despite some very big disappointments," he wrote. "There will be no legacies for our community to enjoy or benefit from after the Games notwithstanding that there was a commitment from VANOC to Council in 2003 that Pemberton would receive a legacy."

Throughout the letter Sturdy identifies park and rides as a "key component" of the Olympic Transportation Plan, stating at one point that the plan recognized there was a need for such a facility to accommodate up to 500 vehicles.

But where they figure within that plan is open to question. Sheena Fraser, Pemberton's Manager of Administrative Services, said the number actually came from a meeting with VANOC last spring, and not from the Transportation Plan.

Sturdy is nevertheless concerned that the Olympic Bus Network will only stop in the town centre, well away from areas such as the Pemberton Meadows, Ivey Lake and Owl Ridge. Some of those areas are more than 20 kilometres from the town centre.

The letter claims that over 1,000 employees and volunteers will travel to Whistler every day to work at the Games and that not having a park and ride could make it difficult for them to even get to Whistler.

"The impacts of not having a Park and Ride facility in Pemberton are going to be huge and there is no doubt that on February 1, 2010, when the Transportation Plan is put into action, VANOC and the world will see first hand the failure of VANOC to accommodate the basic needs of our community," Sturdy wrote.

"This oversight in planning has the potential to become a community relations nightmare and one we all wish to avoid so close to the start of the Games."

 

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