Two men proposing to build a university in Whistler further ramped up their effort this month in hopes that heightened public interest will help eventually win council’s blessing.
To catch the public eye, proponents Doug Player and former University of Victoria president David Strong are distributing “Whistler U” information brochures around town and launched a website last month.
“I am hoping, quite frankly, that residents… will talk to their elected representatives and suggest ‘Hey, this is a very worthwhile idea for the community, and particularly after the Olympics are gone, it could help regenerate the economy again,’” said Player a university professor.
Both the brochures and website present information in a frequently-asked-questions format and outline three studies done on the proposed site, the Alpha Creek land near Function Junction, to find out what impact such a development would have on the environment.
Player said that the project has already started to get a lot of feedback since the brochures and website were introduced, and he hopes to eventually make an application to council to build the education facility.
The project has received a clear “no” from mayor and council since the idea first came to light a couple of years ago, with Mayor Ken Melamed saying that the university does not fit in with Whistler’s community plan. The mayor has also raised concerns about the potential environmental impact on the Alpha Creek Lands.
According to Player, the mayor also “adamantly refused” to look at literature on the university when Player met with him in his office last year.
“I am hoping to get a better ear from elected officials,” he said.
“I have talked to lots of people, and they all love the idea, but when I talk to council, they don’t agree.”
The Alpha Creek Lands are currently zoned for four large houses, and proponents plan to build these houses if the Whistler U proposal does not pan out. According to Player, an application to develop the land is already circulating through municipal hall.
When asked what he and Strong will do if council doesn’t change their position on this issue, Player replied: “There is an election coming.”
He added that he thinks it is likely another council will go ahead with the project, since the university would provide an alternative economic strategy for Whistler beyond the Olympics.
“I am very concerned about the future and what we draw year-round… but this would be all year, and it would be a really positive thing for the community,” said Player.
“I hope everyone will see that.”
The next brochure Player hopes to distribute will have information on proposed programming for Whistler U. Most of this information is already presented on the website.
He added that aboriginal and high school programming is also something the proposed university is exploring.