Whistler Blackcomb (WB) is getting the inside scoop on the province's updated plan for Garibaldi Provincial Park, favouritism that doesn't sit well with some stakeholders.
Jayson Faulkner, chair of the Spearhead Hut Committee, wrote to Environmental Minister Mary Polak last month, expressing his dismay over the process, which saw Whistler Blackcomb meet with the province at the 11th hour over the Garibaldi Park plan amendment, and other land use matters. No other stakeholders have seen copies of the plan since the draft was released one year ago.
"When did all of a sudden the process become a private behind-closed-doors process?" asked Faulkner.
"We don't understand what appears to be different kind of treatment when it comes to the other stakeholders."
Faulkner is not alone in his concerns.
"Our Brett Carslon Memorial Foundation group is concerned about the fact that this final report has been released for review to WB/Whistler Heli Skiing, while none of the other interest groups have been included, or made aware that this had taken place," said group spokesman Damian Cromwell.
"It brings up questions of fairness and bias, and does not provide the same opportunity of review for the number of other groups who have worked diligently towards putting this document together — not to mention the large population of the public left in the dark, that seem to be against the continuance of heli-skiing in the park."
Whistler Blackcomb's vice president of planning, government relations and special projects Doug Forseth, confirmed this week that senior officials at the company met with provincial representatives two to three weeks ago. The province gave Whistler Blackcomb the heads-up that it was close to finalizing the master plan amendment.
"We did meet to review various land use issues that we have in common because we have such a large boundary together," confirmed Forseth, adding that the work included some coordination with Whistler Blackcomb's own master planning process.
"I don't know when they're going to release it (the plan amendment). I can't comment on what we did read in there because it's talking out of school.
"They did talk to us but again, it seemed reasonable because we are both doing a master plan; we have common issues between the two of us."
The Ministry of the Environment said in an email: "... As per the normal park management planning process, meetings with Whistler Blackcomb have occurred as they operate within the area of the management plan amendment. BC Parks staff will continue to meet with local First Nations."
Whistler Blackcomb has arguably one of the largest stakes in the Garibaldi Park amendment; the Spearhead Area is one of the preferred guiding areas for the company's heli-ski operations, Whistler Heli Skiing.
The issue of heliskiiing in the Spearhead area came to a head during the park plan amendment public consultation period, with 68 per cent against the continuance of the activity in the park.
The draft amendment includes the recommendation that heliskiing opportunities remain but no new areas will be considered.
The draft states: "The ongoing operation of Whistler Heli Skiing is important to Whistler's economy and contributes to the diversity of the recreational opportunities offered in the park. Furthermore, the presence of the heli-ski operator in the park provides an important measure of public safety."