The provincial government has announced that it is in the process of creating a right-of-way through Stawamus Chief Provincial Park.
The proponents of the Sea to Sky Gondola are pleased with the news, though according to David Greenfield of the Sea to Sky Gondola Corp., BC Parks approval is still needed.
The provincial government announced a number of changes to parks in B.C. and amongst them was the removal of 2.36 hectares from the Stawamus Chief Park.
According to the news release: "The area being removed will subsequently be established as Stawamus Chief Protected Area under the Environment and Land Use Act. This allows for the application of a Park Use Permit for a right-of-way through the park."
BC Parks staff members are reviewing the application to assess environmental impacts. Greenfield said his company prepared and submitted what he described as a very detailed impact assessment to BC Parks.
Anders Ourom of the Friends of the Squamish Chief (FOSC) said his group requested a copy of that report but nobody from the FOSC has seen it yet.
An online petition launched May 4 by FOSC calls on the province to hold a public hearing on the gondola proposal. As of this week, almost 300 people have signed the petition.
Ourom said there is also a hard copy petition circulating.
"What we're thinking of next is possibly asking to meet with the minister of the environment and possibly the environment critic if they are willing," said Ourom.
A significant amount of consultation work has already been done, Greenfield said in response to those opposed to the gondola.
"We've done so much work with the public to date... through the District of Squamish, through the SLRD, working with the First Nations," said Greenfield. "All of those are processes which are not our processes, and they are fully open to the public, so in our view we've done sufficient consultation. Nothing it appears at this stage is required more from the provincial government standpoint so obviously our preference is to not to go through one more additional step given what we've gone through to date."
The provincial government news release also revealed that 1.93 hectares was added to Stawamus Chief Provincial Park as a result of Crown lands transferred to the ministry in 2008 from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
The 1.93 hectares comes from a closed road that was used while major improvements were being made to the Sea to Sky Highway.
Greenfield said the gondola proponents are aiming to start operating the gondola in July 2013.
The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is expected to vote later this month on third reading of a zoning bylaw required for the construction of the gondola's top station.