Note: After publication the Pique was contacted by WORCA to clarify that the work on a multi-use trail up Sproatt Mountain will take three years, and not the consultation and process. As well, the process does not need the approval of the tenure holder, although the tenure holder is involved in discussions. We regret the errors.
Trails for hiking, biking, business and recreation have become a major focus in Whistler in recent years and a large variety of stakeholders — the municipality, the newly created Trails Planning Working Group, the Forest and Wildlands Advisory Committee, the Recreational and Leisure Advisory Committee, local user groups for biking and hiking, BC Parks, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, Recreation Sites and Trails BC, private companies and concerned citizens — are working together and starting a new era in trail development.
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said that trails are a major focus for the current council and that current budget plans include a $250,000 investment in 2013.
"There has been a recognition by this council that there hasn't been a lot of money spent on trail maintenance and some of the trails are in quite a deteriorated condition," she said. "And they are important as far as the guest experience and hiking activities that go on here. We have said that it's a priority."
One example is the upgrades to the Rainbow Lake Hiking Trail. A section that passes through a wet area was rerouted last summer, and that work will continue.
Wilhelm-Morden said that repairing the trails is a process that's made more challenging by the short construction window between snow melting in the spring and falling again the next autumn. As a result, she said people might not see changes as quickly as they might like, but they are coming.
"There are so many interested groups involved and those partnerships are important, and working with the province and maintaining that relationship is also important," she said. "But there's only so much work that can be done in a year."
The focus differs for various groups:
Mountain bikers look to alpine
The mountain bike community, represented by groups like the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA) is pushing for high alpine access in Whistler, which has been identified as one of the gaps in what's offered in the Whistler region compared to other mountain bike regions.
They've lobbied for access to Garibaldi Provincial Park and the Musical Bumps area, as well as a mountain bike route into the high alpine surrounding Sproatt.
Emily Mann, WORCA's director of planning, confirmed that they met with BC Parks to discuss the reintroduction of mountain bikes to the Singing Pass/Musical Bumps area after that activity was denied in the draft management plan. While Mann said the meeting went well, the only concession they've asked for at this point is a line in the management plan suggesting that it could be reviewed again at any time instead of decades from now when the management plan is updated once again.
"That's all we're asking for and I feel pretty good that we'll get that," she said. "Hopefully in the spring they'll publish their report and have something in there that says they'll think about mountain biking. But definitely nothing is going to change in the near future, it's going to take a lot more work and planning."