By Kevin Damaskie
RMOW Policy and Program Development
It’s spring. A time of new life, renewed energy and emergence from winter dens. A time to reflect and a time to move forward… a time for meetings?
A spring walk through our verdant valley unveils the smells of spring… skunk cabbage, damp dirt and the musty tinge of old earth assimilating detritus to make new earth. Intermingled with these olfactory delights, I sniff direct democracy and community building. And what fresh scents these are.
This spring I experienced something evolutionary, exhilarating and invigorating. Over the past decade and a half, I have come across many stellar folks who call Whistler home and who have been volunteering their time, energy and insight to try and make this the best town it can be. Often, this energy was focused at coffee shops, pubs or parent advisory councils. This spring, I came together with 160 or so extraordinary citizens of Whistler who have taken ownership of their collective future and are working together today to create a successful, sustainable resort community through Whistler2020. For the fourth year, an annual rite of spring in Whistler has become the Whistler2020 task force process.
Whistler’s vision for 2020 was developed by you, the community and it is coming to life by the hands of community members and organizations too numerous to list here. With this shared vision of success and sustainability in mind, the 16 Whistler2020 task forces meet on an annual basis to assess community-wide progress and recommend actions for moving forward to any business or organization. By tapping into the breadth and depth of knowledge of the task forces and by increasing community connections, our community unearths actions that may not otherwise be identified individually and uses limited community resources for maximum benefit.
For me, the beauty of Whistler2020 and the high level of community involvement in our comprehensive sustainability plan is the shared values and language created through a very motivated, informed dialogue which creates an understanding of where we are now and where we want to be in the future. We may not always agree how to get there, but sharing ideas and learning together is an important part of the journey.
Beyond dialogue, these task forces recommend very on-the-ground actions to local organizations for implementation. Of the 150 or so actions recommended by the task forces annually for the past four years, roughly two-thirds of these have been successfully completed or are underway, thus helping to move us toward our vision. We still have a long way to go before ‘turning the corner’ toward true sustainability, but Whistler2020 goes beyond planning and has been putting actions on the ground for the past four years, thanks to committed community members like you. Well done, Whistler.
As one task force member put it to me following a particularly arduous six hour task force action planning meeting: “I feel drained and energized at the same time. If it had been up to me to get this level of dialogue and output from this diversity of people, it would have taken 50 hours and a year of organization.”
On another occasion, a task force member and business person emphasized to a group of citizens that he’d far rather conduct business in a community that is working toward a shared vision for the future than in a community that doesn’t have a vision and isn’t working toward a common goal. Later this month, Whistler is hosting resort communities from all over Western Canada to share our community sustainability successes and lessons learned with towns like Fernie, Golden, Tofino, Banff and Canmore.
The first two stages of this spring’s direct democracy process are complete. We have laid out our garden and planted the seeds. Now our task is to weed, water and watch our community grow in positive, proactive, progressive directions.
Congratulations to you, the hewers of actions and sawyers of sustainability. I am proud to say I’m a part of this process. If you want to join this very committed group of 160 community members next spring to make Whistler more successful and sustainable, please find out more by visiting whistler2020.ca and go to Involvement.