Up to 1,800 military personnel could find themselves at home in the Sea to Sky corridor in 2010 as the federal government plans to build six camps between North Vancouver and Pemberton to house them during the Olympic Games.
The $40 million project will provide a mix of 200- to 400-person camps for Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Forces personnel between November 2009 and April 2010, according to an August newsletter from Defence Construction Canada (DCC), a Crown corporation that does construction and infrastructure projects for DND.
“We’re going to be providing a turnkey contracted solution for six temporary camps located strategically throughout the area between North Vancouver through to Pemberton,” Rick Gudz, a site operations manager at DCC’s office in Esquimalt, said in a newsletter.
When reached at his office, Gudz refused to comment and directed all media inquiries to a spokeswoman.
“I can’t because it’s already getting all screwed up,” Gudz said when asked to offer a comment. “We’re trying to get things consistent and we’ve got to go through her.”
Major Dan Thomas with the Integrated Security Unit (ISU), a joint effort between the RCMP, Vancouver Police, West Vancouver Police and the Canadian Forces to maintain public safety during the 2010 Games, said the camps will house operations to help out with RCMP-led security at the 2010 Olympics. He emphasized that Canadian Forces will only be there in a supporting role, though he did not specify what form that support would take.
“The Canadian Forces will be a support player in providing some personnel and some expertise to help the Mounties do the job,” he said. “Five years ago we supported the B.C. Forest Service, fighting forest fires in the B.C. southern Interior, this time we will be supporting the RCMP in securing the winter Olympics.”
DCC is currently seeking contactors to build the camps, according to a posting on merx.com, a website the federal government uses to post public sector opportunities.
The posting does not cite any locations, dates or costs, but it asks for the provision of complete temporary accommodation facilities and services in “austere” conditions in 10 separate camps throughout British Columbia.
The posting says that each is expected to house between 200 and 800 personnel, in contrast with the DCC newsletter’s assertion that the camps will have a maximum of 400 personnel.
Richard Allie, manager of contract services for Defence Construction Canada, said the “austere” conditions means the camps could look a lot like Atco trailers, but it hasn’t yet been confirmed what the camps will look like.
The DCC newsletter lists a series of local and provincial organizations as partners in the development of the camps, among them the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Pemberton Regional Airport Authority.
Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed said in an interview that Pique ’s call was the first he heard about the number of military personnel being stationed in the Sea to Sky area. He admitted, however, that municipal staff had been in contact with the military about stationing personnel near Whistler during the Games.
“They’ve talked about their needs to have temporary camps, they’ve looked at some locations,” he said. “They’ve looked at potential places to stage, but this is the first time that we’ve heard that they’re getting close to a decision.”
Melamed said DND staff considered Spruce Grove Park as a location for the camps, but that was later rejected. They have also checked out various “gravel pits” within the municipality, according to the mayor.
“I think their intention is to be there to secure the Games but the Games is not about security,” he said. “The Games is about the Games and their job is to stay in the background as much as possible.”
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, meanwhile, said military representatives had been in touch with the Village of Pemberton for years and had expressed interest in using the Pemberton Airport as a site for one of their camps.
“There has always been interest in using Pemberton as a resource,” he said. “The property resource officers from National Defence have inquired as to the availability of lands in the Pemberton area, be it the airport or otherwise.
“They’re not willing to release numbers or plans, it’s all part of a security issue, but they have expressed an interest, although there’s been no commitments to this point.”
Calls to David MacKenzie, president of the Pemberton Regional Airport Authority, were not returned by press time.
Another source said military personnel were considering the Easter Seals Camp in Squamish for a base of operations, but this could not be confirmed with Easter Seals staff.