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Whistler landscape architects win national award

New app charts usage in South Chilcotin Mountains Park

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It's a changing landscape indeed: Whistler's Tom Barratt Landscape Architects have been recognized for their groundbreaking work in the South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park.

Barratt and his team spent about two months in 2016 collating field data using an innovative app to chart trails, usage and patterns in the 57,000-hectare park that has roughly 140 kilometres of main trails. And the work has earned the team the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects award.

"You've had a lot of different users up there — horseback riders, hikers, guides and a lot of them have conflicting points of view. And B.C. parks has not had rangers walking around there all the time so they never had a good handle on it," Barratt said.

The park's trails are basically wildlife routes, something that Barratt said adds to the appeal of this more remote area.

"It wasn't like someone went in and said: 'We're going to build these trails.' You'd be riding down a section of trail and realize that horses went down there. You've got this whole historical origin of these trails."

Barratt said one of the reasons the wilderness was made into a provincial park is because of the grizzly bear habitat, and part of the task at hand was to chart sightlines, vegetation for grizzlies, and how to avoid potential conflict between bears and users.

"With this info, B.C. parks can steer trails away from grizzly bear food sources," he said.

Barratt's team included landscape architects Annie Oja and Dave Williamson, the principal of Cascade Environmental Resource Group, GIS specialists Todd Hellinga and Nicola Church, and biologists Lori Homstol, Kersti Vaino and Natasha Dudley.

The app used is what Barratt describes as a modified GPS that allowed team members to pick up and document information right off their phones.

"What it avoided was standing out there with a clipboard," Barratt said. "It was customized and it became a very handy tool for the grizzly bear biologists. They could do their plots and map out all the signs of grizzly bear use and they'd mark in all the vegetation that grizzly bears like, so while they were doing that we were doing trails and campgrounds."

Barratt said the award was a surprise.

"I thought we had a 50-50 chance. I knew (the work) was awardable and I didn't know if the jury would see it the way I did. But they recognized it right away. That was unique."

The award will be presented during the Congress of the World Design Summit in October in Montreal.

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