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Resort Municipality of Whistler identifies community assets

Mountains, green corridors, bike trails listed on community asset list for Official Community Plan update



It's easy enough to talk about the bounty that is Whistler, but for the community to thrive specific asset identification is key. Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) mayor and council laid out their ideal community resources at an Official Community Plan (OCP) workshop last Thursday, Mar. 17.

"My first community asset is the village, it is the spoke that radiates out to the community as a whole," said councillor Tom Thomson. "We must continue to be supportive of it and we need facilitators to allow it to flourish in the economic downturn because it's part of the Whistler experience as a whole.

"People come to Whistler for this very unique village and it must be vital and economically vital. It needs grease to keep the wheels of our community turning and it is generated locally, we can protect and maintain our best asset by having strong future visions."

A component of the meeting was focused on improving the Whistler experience for summertime visitors. Mayor Ken Melamed suggested modelling some Whistler hotels on European bike hotels - lodgings that cater to mountain bikers with bike-friendly wash zones and secure lock up areas - as one way of drawing visitors. Improved trail access and management for all levels of bikers was another.

"I think it (biking) hits on all three: social, economic and environmental," he said. "I think because Whistler is so closely associated with outdoor recreation...biking is one of the things that is closest to our brand, it's not mechanized, it's about healthy lifestyles, it's low budget, it's low impact, low footprint and we have the potential that Whistler could become the premier mountain bike destination in North America. We're very close to being there but as a resort we're still largely associated with winter and skiing. Not to take away from winter and skiing, we've already discovered there is a way to capitalize on trails in the winter as well."

Opening biking trails to snowshoers and cross country skiers in the winter was suggested as a way to bridge the seasonal and sporting divide in Whistler.

Allowing tourists to more easily gain entry to the alpine was also identified as having major potential for the region, with Melamed and councillor Grant Lamont agreeing that affordability and access should remain a prime focus.

"I think it's crucial that people don't have to take $50 out of their pocket every time they want to get into the alpine," said Lamont. "If somebody wants to go ride their bike in the alpine there should not be a financial barrier to do so, it should be a value added aspect to the resort."

General, careful management of Whistler's mountains was highlighted as critical to the progress of the RMOW by all of council.

"Economically it drives about 80 per cent of the revenue for the resort and growing in the summertime so I don't think a discussion about assets is key without it," continued Lamont.

Careful city planning to ensure the inclusion of green corridors between the Village and new developments to the north is an asset councillor Ralph Forsyth wants to see maintained. Lakes were also on his agenda as an underappreciated regional draw.

"One of (the)assets (I think is important), and I think it's one that we take for granted a lot of the time, is we've got a number of beautiful, accessible lakes, each one with its own character and volume," he said. "People love water, humans love water. Access to water is something that is increasingly rare to some of our visitors so protecting the commons from further development and bringing back fish stocks, wouldn't it be a dream if we could invite people up to catch their own dinner?"

Mountain lift access, transit, the Valley Trail, the Callaghan Valley and providing local youth with job opportunities were also identified as assets to manage through the OCP.



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