The District of Squamish has approved a gondola to carry visitors 2,700 feet above Howe Sound, but some say the $25 million project treats Mother Nature like an amusement park.

On Tuesday, city council approved plans to build the Sea to Sky Gondola between Shannon Falls and the Stewamus Chief, a popular hiking destination considered to be of spiritual significance.

The two-kilometre ride will last about seven minutes and end at a ridge on Mount Habrich, where developers are building a terminal with dining, interactive exhibits, a suspension bridge and hiking trails.

There will also be shops, guide services and a small food outlet at the base of the ride.

Squamish Mayor Rob Kirkham lauded the plan Thursday as a natural fit for the city.

“It fits perfectly with our theme that Squamish is the outdoor recreation capital of Canada. We’re all about economic development and enhancing our tourism business, so it ties in very well,” Kirkham said.

But not everyone agrees. The Friends of the Squamish Chief group has been fighting the gondola since it was first proposed, and argues the approval process failed to take in enough public input.

Members believe the area is too valuable in its pristine state to sully with development.

“It’s going to rip a strip right up the middle of the park with development at top and bottom,” said Anders Ourom.

“The provincial government is simply facilitating development in parks rather than saying our first job is to protect them.”

The developer insists the project passed a full environmental review, and will have a minimal impact.

The gondola is expected to be open by May 2014.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Michele Brunoro