‘Eco’ event likes Whistler’s high profile concert/campout should be well attended By Paul Andrew When was the last time you could pitch a tent in the immediate Whistler area and enjoy a concert in the wilderness? Better yet, why did it take an outside group to promote and host the only multiple bill concert in Whistler this summer? While there is no Summit Concert series this year, if you’re anxious for the back-to-nature thing, B.C. Eco Events has the answer. It’s called the Stoltmann Music Festival, and it takes place Aug. 28-29 some 15 kilometres north of Whistler Village. In order to avoid a blockade, organizers have asked the media not to reveal the exact location until 24 hours before the concert. But if all goes well, the relatively low expectations from B.C. Eco Events regarding attendance could be doubled to at least 500 wilderness-friendly music lovers. If the weather turns in their favour, perhaps hundreds of music fans and pro-national park people will spill over and a real festival atmosphere will take place. "I think moving the festival up to Whistler is the best thing we could have done," said Damian Kettlewell, a volunteer organizer for Eco Fest. "I’ll be happy to see 250 or 300 people there. But I guess that all depends on the promotion in Whistler. There’s been no concerts up there by Intrawest this year so I guess we’re the only ones." The two-day event will have most of the music taking place on Saturday; admission is by donation. Six bands, including The Grames Brothers, Green Room and Martin Tielli’s new band, along with veteran performer John Bottomley, are among the musicians scheduled to perform on Aug. 28. The second day of the Stoltmann Music Festival will be environment awareness day. Kettlewell said a lantern parade will take place late in the evening on Saturday. The purpose of the event is two-pronged: On one hand, organizers hope to educate the masses about the reasons for a proposed 500,000 hectare national park in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. The main focus of the festival, Kettlewell says, is to stop logging in the Elaho Valley’s Lava Creek. It is inside the boundaries of Tree Farm Licence No. 38, which is commonly referred to as the Stoltmann Wilderness. Last week Kettlewell was in the Whistler area checking out the site and talking to locals about support for the national park. "There are some businesses up there who don’t want to see the park go in like the guys who run the Hummer and the ATVs into Cougar Mountain. But we do have some support from AWARE and Eli (Milenkoff) of The Boot Pub is holding the pre-party on Aug. 27. That’s when we’re gong to announce the location of the site. And we’re renting everything we need from Sabre Rentals. We’re spending our money in Whistler." Milenkoff said The Boot is happy to hold the pre-party and provide accommodation for the bands performing at The Boot that night, but beyond that he said there is no political ties with B.C. Eco Events or the Stoltmann National Park campaign. Kettlewell said he doesn’t expect any confrontation at the concert site. But the festival might be tricky to pull off — especially if there is a chance of the concert being viewed as a commercial activity. He says because the concert is being held just outside the RMOW boundaries they don’t have to apply for any permits. It is a public gathering within Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s boundaries, and inside the proposed area for the national park. "We did research in the area and chose a spot of the least (environmental) impact," Kettlewell said. "It’s in an area where they used to stock raw logs so it’s quite wide open. We also have a letter of approval from the Squamish Nation, signed by Chief Bill Williams. The area is considered as traditional lands. But we have to be sensitive there because we don’t want to give the impression their approval is the end-all to be-all." On the Sunday of the festival, peripheral activities include a tour of the wetlands in the area, a chance to see and feel something referred to as a meditation rock (this one some six metres high), and a few high-profile speakers will take the stage. One of the speakers will be Joe Foy, campaign co-ordinator for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, which has been leading the charge to see the Stoltmann area preserved. "We fit into the festival because we support it," Foy said. "I guess I’ll be a speaker at this event, among others. This festival has an edge to it because we have some support for the national park from members of parliament. And there is some activity in the Elaho right now. Things are starting to heat up. You do need to boil the pot sometimes. "The Stein Valley Music Festival was threatened to be blocked one year and that was huge. So we moved it to Tsawwassen from Mount Currie. Unless the Stoltmann is protected, it will become the way the Stein Festival was. There was 20,000 people there one year. Now the Stein is protected and the festival worked." Kettlewell echoed Foy’s comments about the Stoltmann Music Festival continuing until some protection of the old growth trees in the area is guaranteed. The national park is one thing, he said, but logging the area below Mile 63 in the Elaho Valley (63 miles Northwest of Squamish) called Lava Creek, is the site that environmentalists want protected. "We won’t go away," Kettlewell said. "We stand for the preservation of the wilderness in the Whistler area and to stop all logging in the immediate area above Lava Creek. There are 1,300 year-old Douglas Firs up there."