Whistler Watch, the local organization instrumental in changing council’s mind about a proposed public-private partnership two years ago, has rallied to another cause — saving the trees in the last village forest.
On Sunday, March 16, the group organized what it billed as a “tribute” to the trees on Lot 1/9. The site is slated for development to make way for Celebration Plaza, where the nightly medals ceremonies and concerts will take place during the 2010 Games.
Between 75 and 80 people gathered on the edge of the forest in the chilly weekend afternoon, some with signs proclaiming: “Let’s go for the ‘real’ green Games,” while the local RCMP looked on, taking video footage of the crowd.
Whistler Watch has now issued a challenge to the municipality: save half the trees in the forest.
“There’s over 800 trees so I’m challenging the municipality to try to keep half of them,” said Watch member Stephen Vogler, after Sunday’s tribute. “We’ll be counting again after the chainsaws wind down and see just how green we really are in this town.”
Work on the four-acre site is expected to get underway shortly. The site must be cleared and serviced, at a cost of roughly $11.2 million, in order to accommodate 8,000 people each night for the medal ceremonies.
Mayor Ken Melamed said at Monday night’s council meeting that while the municipality is committed to saving as many trees as possible, they cannot put a precise number on it.
Earlier Monday, he spoke of his understanding of the deep passion for protecting what he calls “icons of our British Columbia heritage.”
“People love trees,” he said simply.
“The longer something is there, people grow attached to it.”
Melamed also noted at the council meeting that the forest on Lot 1/9 is not as environmentally sensitive as other protected areas, such as the Emerald Forest.
The trees in question are located between the Brew House Pub and the Whistler Medical Centre, adjacent to Blackcomb Way.
Even before Sunday’s organized tribute, a lone campaigner, who wishes to remain anonymous, had been hanging decorations on the trees with messages like: “I want to live” and “Pave Paradise.”
The municipality, however, has long planned the site for development, with zoning for both recreational/cultural space and commercial space associated with the land for more than 15 years.
“One of the legacies of developing the Lot 1/9 site is that it has zoning potential which has revenue generation potential,” said resort parks planning manager Martin Pardoe this week.