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tantalus forum

A meeting like no other If a bunch of people get together in one room, discuss issues, take notes and votes, then come up with some kind of direction — that would be a meeting. Last week in Whistler there was a meeting with a difference. Dubbed the Whistler Healthy Community Forum, the meeting took place last Thursday at the Tantalus Lodge. About 50 people from all walks of Whistler life gathered to discuss, dissect and direct the needs of Whistler. Health officials, teachers, doctors, town planners, home makers and one municipal councillor showed up at the meeting with questions in their hands and ideas in their heads. And, unlike many meetings, they left with concrete action plans that will be carried out prior to the next scheduled meeting of the group April 20. What was different about this meeting was the ideas discussed at the tables started showing up on colourful flip charts tacked to the walls of the meeting room. The ideas turned into discussion, the discussion, turned into direction and the direction is turning into action. Georgann Cope-Watson, Whistler's Healthy Communities Co-ordinator, says the meeting is a step in the right direction for Whistler as a community as it gives people who are passionate about the future of the valley a chance to have their voices heard. "People were a lot more gung-ho then I expected," Cope-Watson says. "All of the groups came out with action plans and are going to put their ideas in motion before we get together again." Participants were broken up into five groups: Economics of Living in Whistler, Environment, Recreation, Community issues and Social issues. Each group was provided with a stack of information pertaining to their topic of discussion. Cope-Watson has spent the past six months analyzing surveys and compiling research in preparation for the forum. A quick cruise through the various discussion groups led to one early conclusion — Whistler's youth are a big topic. Whistler's young people came up at every table over the course of the evening as participants sought answers to questions as old as Whistler itself. "We have got to have a place for our kids to go," said participant Joan Richoz. "Often in Whistler, community facilities become inaccessible because of the cost." Cope-Watson says as the action plans created at the meeting find their way onto town council's agendas and onto the tables of other meetings around town, the energy created by the first forum will carry on. "There were so many people, so many resources in that room," she says. "We can take that pool of knowledge and expertise out into the community and rather than having a number of agencies working on the same projects, we will have a single, directed group working together. It's actually quite exciting." John Appleton, regional co-ordinator for the Healthy Communities project says the plan is to de-centralize much of the decision making when it comes to the health of a community. The Healthy Communities Initiatives project is funded by the BC Ministry of Health. Appleton co-ordinates the projects in 10 communities stretching from Pemberton to Hope. The project has a province-wide budget of $800,000. "If we have give communities the support to deal with issues they say are priorities, it logically follows that the money coming from Victoria will have a better effect at the community level," Appleton said.

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