B.C. park to lose land to make way for planned gondola
Published Tuesday, May 8, 2012 4:02PM PDT
A gondola proposed for a mountainside near Squamish, B.C. is one step closer to reality now that a chunk of land is set to be sliced off Stawamus Chief Provincial Park.
The B.C. government introduced legislation Monday allowing for 2.36 hectares to be excised from the park to make way for the construction of seven towers needed for the private project.
Environment Minister Terry Lake told reporters Tuesday that the gondola will help attract tourists to the area and open up business opportunities.
"People want us enjoy the parks, get people into them, and this is one way we can do that. I certainly don't see any concern in terms of conservation value. The area will still be protected," he said.
Another 1.93 hectares would be added to the provincial park in a different area as a result of a transfer from the Ministry of Transportation following the completion of upgrades to the Sea-to-Sky Highway. BC Parks will still need to complete an environmental assessment before the gondola can go ahead.
The gondola would travel up to about 2,700 feet above Howe Sound, ending at a ridge on Mount Habrich.
Parks advocates and conservationists have fought against the project, arguing that land should not be removed from provincial parks except in special cases and after thorough public review.
Anders Ourom of Friends of the Squamish Chief said he's also concerned about how the gondola would affect the local environment.
"There's questions about the impacts it would have on the wildlife in that upper terminal area, whether the trails as they are now could stand that additional load," he told CTV News.
He added that he's hopeful that the project can still be stopped. Friends of the Squamish Chief have started an online petition demanding a public hearing on the removal of land from the provincial park.
The project already has the unanimous approval of Squamish district council and public consultations are underway.
Councillor Doug Race said the gondola could bring in new sources of revenue for Squamish and will allow visitors to see a part of the wilderness that would otherwise be inaccessible to most people.
"The backcountry is owned by all of us -- it's jointly owned by all Canadians. So to deny one group or one sector of our population access to it, I think it's wrong," Race said.
He added that he believes most visitors will stick close to the station at the top, minimizing the impact on the environment.
If it's approved, construction on the gondola would begin in August with an opening scheduled for the spring or summer of 2013.
With files from CTV British Columbia's Scott Roberts