By Andrew Mitchell
A land deal with Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations has the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA) scrambling to change its plans for the summer and concerned about the future of trails between Alpine Meadows and Emerald Estates.
The two First Nations have been granted eight parcels of Crown land within Whistler’s boundaries, including the Alpine North lands adjacent to the Rainbow development. In total, the First Nations have been granted just under 300 acres of land within the municipality.
The Alpine North lands are of particular interest to WORCA, as the municipality has agreed to consider rezoning the 32-acre site for the development of homes. That area includes three well-established bike trails, Shit Happens, Big Kahuna and No Girly Man.
Shit Happens has already been impacted by the Rainbow Development, and before the land deal was announced, WORCA was planning to replace more than a kilometre of lost trail at a cost of $30,000 — which would include a $10,000 contribution from the developer. Work was expected to start within weeks, but according to WORCA trail director Jerome David the project is now on hold.
“There’s no way we can go ahead until we know what (First Nations) are planning for the area,” he said. “We could get a right of way for some of the trails from the municipality, but I wouldn’t put any work in there until we know exactly what’s happening with roads, building, all that stuff. Either we’re going to have to work around them, or they are going to have to work around us, we won’t know until we see what’s going on.”
WORCA has a policy of no net loss regarding local trails, and, with support from the municipality, has worked with developers in the past to protect and replace trails impacted by development. David is confident that WORCA can achieve the same balance in the Alpine North area.
“These are the backyard trails for a lot of residents in Alpine and Emerald, and we don’t want to lose them,” he said.
First Nations were not even aware of the trails until Pique contacted Lil’Wat Nation chief negotiator Lyle Leo.
“Basically what was included in our land selection that the province looked at before assigning them to us was whether there were any encumberances on the land,” Leo said. “(The bike trails) were not noted, but we look forward to discussing any issues from the community that need to come forward.
“We haven’t done any economic strategy as of yet, which is a matter of looking into what’s of interest to the community in the area, but we have looked into access. We don’t want to interfere with the current residences being planned to the south of the property, and they don’t want development trucks moving their area, so there will be a new road.