Local Businesses, Snowmobilers, Dirt Bikers, Anglers, Climbers, Conservationists Join Forces to Stop Garibaldi at Squamish Development
Squamish, BC – This week, a broad and unusual coalition of local business owners, snowmobilers, dirt bikers, anglers, climbers, conservationists and other will come out swinging against the proposed Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) ski resort with a full-page ad in the Squamish newspaper, The Chief. Though the groups sometimes differ on other issues, their shared opposition to the massive development project has brought them together to wage a community-based campaign against the resort. In the ad, the coalition urged provincial and local officials to reject the GAS development because it would hurt small businesses by drawing consumers away from downtown, jeopardize existing recreational use of the area proposed for development, undermine Squamish's official community plan, adversely impact rich fisheries resources and imperiled species, and put residents at risk by displacing large predators, such as cougars and bears, potentially increasing conflicts with wildlife. The groups also expressed concerns that crucial social, environmental, and economic studies have either not yet been completed or made available to the public, making it impossible for local residents to fully assess the project's impact on the community.
"The Garibaldi at Squamish resort would turn a stunning, natural landscape, a place that is home to some of the most spectacular wildlife in North America, into a sprawling development of Mcmansions with well manicured Chem-lawns," said Brian Vincent, Communications Director with Big Wildlife, an international wildlife advocacy organization with an office in Squamish. "That would be like taking a wrecking ball to the Sistine Chapel," said Vincent.
The proposed resort has sparked intense and wide-spread opposition in Squamish. Last week more than 100 residents rallied outside Municipal Hall to voice concerns about the GAS project. Following the rally, residents, many of them sporting neon "GAS stinks" stickers, packed a local council meeting to show solidarity against the plan. And in downtown Squamish, many businesses have put up anti-GAS posters in their shop windows. Critics of the proposal say they are not anti-development. Rather than pushing a large-scale resort into a prime recreation and wildlife area, opponents say development should be focused in Squamish's downtown. Such development makes more economic sense, they say, because it would help create jobs and revitalize the town center without sacrificing the environment.
"I'm concerned with the sprawling nature of the development, the effect it will have on Squamish's efforts to concentrate our growth within our footprint, and the impact it will have on the existing recreation values of Cat and Brohm lakes," said Murray Sovereign, owner, Valhalla Pure Outfitters in Squamish. "It's pretty clear that this is just a thinly-disguised land grab. The very first act of the current proponent upon taking over the project was to unilaterally redraw the boundaries to encompass Cat and Brohm Lakes. That's really all they're interested in, and they're using the ski area on Brohm Ridge as a Trojan Horse to get through the front gate," said Sovereign. "Allowing condos and golf courses all the way down the side of the mountain to the banks of the Cheakamus River is the price we're being asked to pay in exchange for a ski hill. That is a far higher price than the community is willing to pay. Rather than sacrificing recreational assets that are of a very high value to the community, in exchange for this development, I for one am willing to sacrifice this development in order to preserve those assets," he said.
The GAS plan, first submitted to BC's Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) in 1997 and recently resurrected, would cover an area roughly half the size of Squamish. The development would include: two golf courses, 25 ski lifts, 98 km of roads, hotels, and nearly 6,000 new homes, apartments, and condominiums. Local residents have expressed concern about the GAS project's impact to current community services and infrastructure. For instance, the GAS plan does not account for fire protection services, hospital beds, school seats, or public transit. Specifically, the proposal states that these services will not be budgeted for in the building of GAS and no will funds will be allocated at any time. If the residential portion does not generate enough tax to pay for on-going infrastructure costs, all of Squamish will be held financially responsible.
“The world has come to recognize Squamish truly as the recreation capital of Canada if not the globe," said Mike Blomfield, downhill skier, sledder and Executive Director of the Black Tusk Snowmobile Club, a group that has used the area for almost 40 years. "The diversity of public recreation activities already taking place on Brohm Ridge makes it a critical part of that recognition. GAS would eliminate most all of this recreating opportunity making it available only to those choosing to purchase a lift ticket and limiting their activities to those prescribed by GAS proponents. The destruction of the alpine and sub-alpine terrain needed to turn Brohm Ridge’s undulating topography into a downhill ski resort is as massive as all other aspects of the resort combined. No one would consider this atrocity for nearby Black Tusk Meadows, so how can we allow this to happen on Brohm Ridge?,” said Blomfield.
The proposed development encompasses land that has been identified as prime habitat for endangered or at-risk species such as peregrine falcon, wolverine, and marbled murrelet. Concerns have been raised about the resort's effects on a resident mountain goat herd. In addition, the GAS area includes a threatened grizzly bear population unit that has been designated for recovery by the province. The project has come under especially intense fire because of its potential impacts on Brohm Creek, one of the most prolific steelhead streams in the province. Living Rivers BC has called the Brohm a "Crown Jewel" of steelhead production. The development calls for expansive water management, including sewage and storm water discharge, irrigation for golf courses and potable water, extractions of water for snowmaking, and as many as five dams.
"Science has documented the extreme importance of the Brohm Creek to Cheakamus River steelhead stocks, a population already threatened by the 2005 toxic chemical spill in the Cheakamus River. It is inconceivable that a massive development that would cause permanent and irreversible damage to the Brohm steelhead population would be allowed to go ahead."" said Clint Goyette, who operates Valley Fishing Guide Limited in Squamish.
The public comment period on the ski resort's Environmental Assessment certification application closes July 19. The EAO will then have 17 days to prepare a report for the provincial government, which will have 45 days to accept or reject the application.
"Most of us recognize that we are privileged to be living in an area that has such amazing natural beauty and diversity of wildlife. It is here for us all to enjoy but we also have a duty to be good stewards," said Catherine Jackson of the Squamish Environmental Conservation Society. "These lakes and trails are gems. I have taken my daughter swimming in Cat lake and hiking these trails since she was six years old. She is now nineteen. We owe it to future generations to keep these natural gems intact," said Jackson.
*NOTE: Campaigning against the GAS resort, a development proposal in would destroy habitat for grizzly and black bears, cougars, wolves, salmon, steelhead and other species, has prompted Big Wildlife to build alliances with groups that may differ with us on other areas of interest.
Signatories on the full-page ad include:
Alpine Club of Canada – Whistler section
Association of BC Snowmobile Clubs
BC Federation of Drift Fishers
BC Off-Road Motorcycling Association
Black Tusk Snowmobile Club
Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia
Quad Riders ATV Association of BC
Save Garibaldi Group
Squamish Access Society
Squamish Dirt-Bikers Association
Squamish Environmental Conservation Society
Squamish River Watershed Society
LOCAL SQUAMISH BUSINESSES
Brackendale Art Gallery
Buzz Events and Promotions
Climb On Equipment
dlp architecture inc.
Fetish Footwear for Men & Women
Howe Sound Juice Co.
In The Raw organics
J & R Motorsports
The Kids Place
Mini Flea Market
Marchello shoe & Repair
Noisy Boyes Music
On the Pipe Performance
Panago Pizza (Squamish franchise)
Sea-Run Fly and Tackle
Squamish Valley Design
Susan Carmody Photography
The Green Dog
Trinity Romance Shop
Valley Fishing Guides Ltd.