'I was stunned': Latest gondola vandalism leaves Squamish mayor shocked, wedding planners scrambling
VANCOUVER -- History has an ugly way of repeating itself.
“I thought it was a joke at first. I was like, this is some sick joke,” wedding co-ordinator Caroline Hyatt said about the latest vandalism on the Sea to Sky Gondola.
But once she realized it was true – the cables had been cut for the second time in about 13 months – she immediately went into strategy mode.
“I emailed my bride because I wanted her to have as much time as possible, even if it meant minutes to figure out what we were going to do,” said Hyatt, who works at Love and Confetti. “She called me crying, she was obviously upset and her fiancé was upset.”
Last year in August, the Sea to Sky Gondola had a cable cut at about 4:30 in the morning. RCMP have yet to arrest a suspect, but throughout the year officers have told CTV News the case remains open and active. Monday morning it happened again, at almost the same time of day.
Hyatt dealt with this last year, only that time it was a first and she had five weddings to reschedule on short notice. This year it was just the one as the pandemic has caused a slump in weddings.
“Within hours we found another venue,” Hyatt said, adding she "can’t believe this is happening again and to the community of Squamish.”
Hers is just one of two similar events that have been cancelled, officials with Sea to Sky Gondola say an elopement and a small wedding were impacted for 2020.
“It’s hard to comprehend how this has happened again,” said Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott. She received a call from the town’s chief of police a few short hours after suspected vandals struck.
“I was stunned,” Elliott told CTV News, especially after a challenging year for gondola operations. After reopening in February and then facing the pandemic rules and regulations, the gondola has had to re-adjust many times this year.
“The one benefit that we have this time that we didn’t have last time is we know that they can rebuild quickly,” said Elliott. Officials have not said what a timeline would look like or what the cost could be. After the last act of vandalism, they had it up and running within six months at a cost of $5 million.
Elliott believes this time though, the police investigation could have a different outcome.
“They have more from the added security features that have been added since the last incident,” she explained. In the rebuild, the team added security cameras, motion sensors and a very loud alarm.
“I’m really hopeful and I know they’re working really hard to bring the person or people to justice,” said Elliott . "We would all like to understand the why behind this and the who.”
But it is an attractant to a community that depends on tourism and after the year it has faced, Elliott said she just found out, “one in three of our tourism operators are not sure what their future looks like beyond summer of 2020, that 63 percent of them are accessing some sort of financial aid from senior levels of government.”
She plans to advocate for them to continue receiving funding right through next year, and until they know what will happen with the gondola, she wants to remind people there is still plenty to do in her community.
"There’s amazing trails and they’re beautiful to hike even in the winter time. We have great brewpubs and restaurants.”