Update on the Squamish Gondola

I’ve written before on the proposed Gondola near Squamish, BC. I’ve also been clear that I’m not overly concerned with the development; I figure a gondola is a “light touch” on the park in that it’s largely over the park. It starts in an old gravel pit, and ends in an old clearcut. It will increase traffic in the area of the terminus, but overall it’s less intrusive than a ski resort or golf course.

The major difference between this proposal and the one to put huts on the spearhead is that the former is for profit, and the latter isn’t. The other difference is the gondola proposes to remove land from a Class “A” provincial park.

The group Friends of the Squamish Chief, who worked to oppose the previous proposal to build a gondola to the summit of the Chief itself, make some very good points in the following letter.

STAWAMUS CHIEF UPDATE – APRIL 4TH

Thanks to everyone who read and replied to the message from March 24th, and who’s been following this, and offering support!

Here’s an update on the proposed Squamish gondola, including news about the new, revived Friends of the Squamish Chief (FOSC).

Please take a few minutes to:

  1. Learn more about the Stawamus Chief (Siyám Smánit), and the proposed gondola (see below).
  2. Check our FaceBook page – http://www.facebook.com/FriendsoftheSquamishChief  It’s a start, and a website is in the works.
  3. “Like” the FaceBook page, and share it with everyone you know who would be interested. Feel free to add a comment to the page.
  4. Write to the politicians and newspapers listed below. State in your own words any concerns you have about the proposed gondola and the process that has been used to review it. Tell them where you’re from, and your connection to Squamish and the Chief.
  5. Forward this message to anyone who might contribute to the discussion.

FRIENDS OF THE STAWAMUS CHIEF

Friends of the Squamish Chief (FOSC) works for the continued protection and wise stewardship of Stawamus Chief Provincial Park and area, for all the public. FOSC is based in Squamish, B.C., and includes everyone who support our goals, including Squamptonites, all British Columbians, and others. Many of us have been climbing, hiking and living at Squamish for years, and contributed to the Parks and the area. The Chief and area is internationally known for its natural and recreational values. Friends of the Chief was created in 2004, and has now been revived.

http://www.facebook.com/FriendsoftheSquamishChief – You know what to do!

THE ISSUES

A.    Land should not be removed from Class A provincial parks, such as the Stawamus Chief and Shannon Falls, except in very limited circumstances. Provincial parks, particularly those in the Sea to Sky region, have enough challenges already. What’s the point of all the effort needed to create parks, if they’re not truly protected?

B.    Land should not be removed from these parks for the development in question. It would be contrary to the values and master plans of the parks, and to the public interest, and the parks are already heavily used and highly visible. An additional, high-impact development doesn’t fit.

C.   If there is to be consideration of removing land from Class A parks, it should only be after thorough public review of a proposal by BC Parks, in context of the master plans for the parks, and their history and values. There should then be public meetings, where balanced information about the proposal is presented and public opinion sought. Those meetings, and the process, need to be inclusive of all those interested or who can contribute, and impartial.

D.   The B.C. Government and the District of Squamish should abide by the clear intent of the conservation covenant that is registered against the land where the gondola would be based, which prohibits such developments. Reliable conservation covenants are important to the people and governments of B.C., and to the work of our land trusts. Allowing anyone to “work around” such a covenant would set a dangerous precedent, and may jeopardize the acquisition by Squamish of valuable land in the heart of the Little Smoke Bluffs.

There are related matters, such as whether there are workable alternative location(s), the exact gondola route, its visual, noise, and other impacts, its benefits, the developer’s promises and holding it to them, and so on. You can read about those details on the developer’s website, and if you want comment on them. The real issue is that a gondola shouldn’t be built at all there, and if it is even considered, the process for doing so needs to be much more inclusive and impartial.

WHO TO WRITE

 

Please send copies to:

Include the words “Stawamus Chief Gondola Proposal” in the title, and keep a copy for your records!

SQUAMISH-LILLOOET REGIONAL DISTRICT MEETING: APRIL 19TH

For the proposal to proceed, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District must rezone some land at the upper end of the proposed gondola. The needed bylaw is at second reading stage, and there’ll be a public meeting at Britannia Beach Community Centre at 7:00 PM on April 19th. It is an intermediate step in the process. It’s clear that all governments need to reconsider the proposal and the process, particularly the B.C. government and the District of Squamish. Writing letters is essential, but it will help if people attend the meeting. We understand that there will be opportunities for the public to speak, in a responsible and democratic manner. Please attend if you can. In our next message, and on the FaceBook page, there’ll be more information on the meeting, carpooling for those coming from Squamish, Vancouver, and elsewhere, and arrangements.

BACKGROUND

The Chief was made a Class A provincial park in 1995, after years of work. Its neighbour, Shannon Falls, has long been a provincial park. In 2004, Friends of the Chief, with support from many others, defeated a proposed tourist gondola to the top of the Chief. Afterward, the land where the gondola would have been based was bought by The Land Conservancy of B.C. (TLC), with funding from businesses and individuals. All agreed that the land, a gravel pit between the Chief and Shannon Falls, should be protected. The intent was either that it become part of the Parks, or used for a low-impact commercial development, but either way with a conservation covenant preventing it from being used for a gondola, or any similar development.

TLC couldn’t get the land rezoned to protect it, and BC Parks didn’t buy it. Earlier this year TLC sold the land, with a conservation covenant attached. The covenant prohibits construction of a gondola from that land to anywhere on the face of the Chief, or to a terminal in either park. Sea to Sky Gondola Corp. (http://www.seatoskygondola.com), wants to build a gondola from the gravel pit to a knoll just east of the Parks. It wants a 20 m wide strip to be removed from the middle of the Parks, so that the gondola wouldn’t contravene the covenant.

The provincial government process for considering the proposal has not addressed key issues, and has not been inclusive. Get involved as soon as you can. The District of Squamish has already approved the proposal, and needed rezoning from Squamish Lillooet Regional District has started. The developers want to start building this summer.

Stawamus Chief Provincial Park: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/stawamus/

Shannon Falls Provincial Park: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/shannon/

Sea to Sky Gondola Corp.: http://www.seatoskygondola.com/

NEWS MEDIA

Squamish Chief
http://www.squamishchief.com/article/20120330/SQUAMISH0303/303309953/-1/squamish/gondola-proposal-opposed

http://www.squamishchief.com/article/20120330/SQUAMISH0302/303309961/-1/squamish/not-a-done-deal-yet

http://www.squamishchief.com/article/20120330/SQUAMISH0304/303309951/-1/squamish/all-aboard-squamish-s-gondola

(Also http://www.squamishchief.com/article/20120323/SQUAMISH0101/303239957/-1/squamish/gondola-proposal-defended)

Georgia Straight
http://www.straight.com/article-634541/vancouver/gondola-split-chief-park

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2 comments on “Update on the Squamish Gondola
  1. Murray Gamble says:

    Chair and Directors
    Squamish-Lillooet Regional District

    Hello,

    What is the Sea to Sky Gondola and why are so many people excited about it?

    There have already been questions raised about violation of a covenant placed on the land next to Highway 99, where the base of the gondola is to be located. There have been many concerns raised about the environmental impact. There has been protest at the social and political implications of reclassifying part of a small, busy Provincial Park for commercial purposes.

    There seem to be very few people concerned with what will actually be constructed at the top. The following is from the Sea to Sky Gondola website. “Phase 2 of the Sea to Sky Gondola project will be designed to accommodate future visitation and deliver additional experiences.” What does that mean?

    In Business in Vancouver, Trevor Dunn says that he is modeling the gondola on the sight-seeing gondola in Banff. After a bit of research about the Banff Gondola, here is what I found.

    Banff has been one of Canada’s major tourist attractions since the year before British Columbia became a province. Banff National Park has more tourists each year than the entire population of British Columbia. The Banff Gondola has only half the capacity of the proposal in Squamish. It would take six years for Banff to receive the amount of precipitation that Squamish receives in one year.

    I truly do understand why people will want to travel to the top on clear, sunny days. My question is; What is going to be up there to make people want to pay when it is rainy, snowy, windy or when Forest Fire Warnings prevent travel in the back-country? What will be the attraction at the top on the many days each year when there is no view?

    Why are plans for the mountain top being kept so vague and secretive during these initial stages? Would there be stronger opposition to bisecting Stawamus Chief Provincial Park if we knew what the big attraction would be? Would there be less support if we understood why people will pay to get to the top on a rainy or snowy day?

    I believe that there are many questions that still to be asked and answered before this project proceeds.

    Murray Gamble
    Squamish, BC

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