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"Respect Whistler" committee member upset by continued vandalism

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At least one member of a now-disbanded committee created in 2006 to address vandalism on the May long weekend in Whistler believes that if its recommendations had been followed violence and mayhem might have been reduced this year.

The Respect Whistler Coordinating Committee — created after a troubling May long weekend to look at violence, noise and guest experience issues in the village — tabled a list of recommendations to council in 2007, then disbanded after members were told that the municipality would take on the issue from there.

"I don't live in Whistler and I'm not up on all the nuances of what goes on in the village, but it's clear that some leadership needs to happen around that weekend," said Dennis Hilton, a former committee member who's frustrated that it's taken another disorderly weekend and more bad publicity to get the issue back to the forefront.

"Why isn't the May two-four weekend a family weekend or a competition of some kind? It's mind-boggling to me that it has never been done."

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said last week that a task force will be created to look at the issue, including possible solutions — such as creating a large event that would displace high school grad classes and other unwanted guests that are responsible for many of the issues.

But according to Hilton, a property owner at the Adara Hotel, a number of recommendations — including a suggestion to host an event — were made by the committee back in 2007.

Hilton said that an event that could fill rooms similar to the Tough Mudder leads to higher rates, which he says would discourage teens from coming here and allow hotels to more easily turn away young adults that don't meet their requirements.

"For the Tough Mudder this year our hotel is 85 per cent full already, so there's not enough room for anybody else — or a hotel can say 'we're at 85 per cent, we're happy, we're not taking another 15 per cent if it means renting to teenagers,'" he said.

Hilton agrees with the opinion that incidents on the long weekend don't just happen as a result of young people consuming drugs and alcohol, and believes that people are coming to the resort specifically to cause trouble.

"It would not surprise me in the least," he said. "Human beings are creatures of habit — they come here for a few years and have fun doing it; they got to break the law, punch someone in the face, get drunk and puke all over the place, and went home saying they had a great time. So they come back year after year, and after a while you're not dealing with teens anymore, you have people that are 20, 21, 22 coming up and doing the same things.

"Hotels need to work together to stop taking in teenagers — it's all in the documents (created by the Respect Whistler Coordinating Committee), including how people should be evicted, and what strata councils should do in terms of minimum ages, and all that stuff. But none of it would even be necessary if they could sell out for an event."

And while the May long weekend gets the most attention, Hilton said the overall village experience needs work and there are incidents with noise, fighting and public drunkenness almost every weekend that can impact guests. The problems, which are also included in the report, include the fact that bars let out at the same time, and people tend to congregate at food vendors and the taxi loop. There's also no coordinated effort to reduce noise, an ongoing problem at his hotel with a pizza place under a section of rooms.

"Bylaw doesn't operate at that time of night, so there's nobody going into (the pizza place) to tell them to turn the music down, or to ask the people in there to respect the people upstairs that are sleeping, and that's something we have to start doing. We'll never fix the problem unless bylaws comes to the (businesses) every week and reminds them about it," said Hilton.

"Right now the whole structure is not aimed at enhancing the overall guest experience. In our final report to Whistler, we said that to be a world-class resort is not enough, there has to be a world-class guest experience. And that's not happening."

Hilton said he was glad to see the mayor promising to do something, adding that he believes the Respect Whistler report and recommendations should be considered in any solution.

As for council, two members spoke out this week about the May long weekend.

Said Jayson Faulkner: "There's no question it's something we need to fix."

Roger McCarthy told

Pique, "That cannot happen again. We need to do whatever it takes to make sure there's a 180-degree (change) on that May long weekend."

Several letters have been sent to the municipality, and the issue will come before council at the June 4 meeting.

There have been no arrests yet regarding broken windows and damaged vehicles, but RCMP are continuing to investigate.

— With files from Alison Taylor

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