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Singing Pass Letters

March 29, 2017


Ms. Madeline Maley
Acting Assistant Deputy Minister
Integrated Resource Operations Division
Room 248, Parliament Buildings
Victoria BC
V8V 1X4

By Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dear Ms. Maley,

Thank you for your email of March 20, 2017 with reference no. 227925.

I am writing to advise you that my organization, Garibaldi Park 2020, has written to Honourable Suzanne Anton in her capacity as Attorney General of British Columbia on the matter of the public nuisance created by Whistler Blackcomb. It is our position that under the Canadian common law doctrine of dedication and acceptance, public rights-of-way created in the manner I have described in my earlier correspondence with Mr. Norman Lee, Executive Director, Mountain Resorts Branch result in the public at large acquiring legally enforceable rights to use and enjoy the highways. Section 23 of British Columbia's Land Title Act defines a highway to include "a public street, path, walkway, trail, lane, bridge, road, thoroughfare and any other public way." We rely for our understanding of the doctrine on an article entitled Highways, Parks and the Public Trust Doctrine, by Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law in the Journal of Environmental Law and Practice, October 2007 published by Thomson Canada Limited.

To abate the public nuisance created by Whistler Blackcomb resort, we respectfully requested Madame Attorney General,

  1. Enjoin Whistler Blackcomb to remove the gates on both public roads up Fitzsimmons Creek and to restore and maintain the public right-of-way and parking lot on the south side of Fitzsimmons Creek.
  2. Compel Mountain Resorts Branch to honour its own policy to act in the public interest and follow through with its obligation to facilitate private vehicle access up Fitzsimmons Creek roads as required by Canadian common law and indeed, the explicit dedication of the public access road 20 meters in width and park access right-of-way dating to 1982.
  3. Furthermore, we note that the resort must fully comply with its legal obligations before it can proceed with further mountain development phases or its so-called $345 million Renaissance project. We have respectfully requested Madame Attorney General to place an injunction on further mountain development until the public nuisance is fully abated.

Had the Singing Pass Working Group been willing at the round table discussion last April 26th to work in good faith with the Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C. (FMCBC) and Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) to resolve the issue at hand our request of Madame Attorney General would in all likelihood have not been necessary. At that time, Ms. Tori Meeks, Acting Senior Manager, Major Projects, Mountain Resorts Branch stated that the stakeholders, which did not include the FMCBC, ACC nor any other public interest group, had unilaterally provided only two options for the FMCBC or Alpine Club of Canada to respond to. Neither option was acceptable to either group as they did not include what the public is legally entitled to, namely private vehicle access to the park boundary as asserted in Canadian common law. Ms. Meeks also stated that neither group, the FMCBC nor ACC, was permitted to bring up the option of private vehicle access along the public roads.

It is my understanding there is a proposal being developed by one of the public interest groups our organization works with that would see a paved or gravel public road extending up the north side of Fitzsimmons Creek to a parking facility adjacent the Innergex head pond. A 200 car or larger parking lot would be constructed, a new bridge across Fitzsimmons Creek and improvement of the overgrown access road to connect with the road on the south side of the creek. The road on the south side would have further improvement to stabilize the landslip and provide vehicular access. The Singing Pass Working Group is well aware that this type of proposal will satisfy the public interest. It is time the working group, your ministry and Whistler Blackcomb find constructive and collaborative solutions along the lines of this forthcoming proposal.

Sincerely,

[name withheld], co-founder, Garibaldi Park 2020

March 29, 2017

Honourable Suzanne Anton, Q.C.
Room 232, Parliament Buildings
Victoria BC
V8V 1X4

By Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dear Honourable Minister,

I am writing to you in your capacity as Attorney General for British Columbia. I am requesting the intervention of the Attorney General in the matter of a public nuisance created by Whistler Blackcomb resort situated in the Resort Municipality of Whistler. My organization, Garibaldi Park 2020 has written several times in the last year to Mr. Norman Lee, Executive Director, Mountain Resorts Branch in the matter of private vehicle use of the Fitzsimmons Creek roads leading to the Garibaldi Provincial Park boundary in the vicinity of Harmony Creek (FLNRO file reference no. 224595, 227618, 227925). The public nuisance arises under the Canadian common law doctrine of dedication and acceptance as Whistler Blackcomb has illegally gated both public Fitzsimmons Creek roads thereby preventing long standing private vehicle use and in particular, private vehicle access and parking at the Singing Pass trail head adjacent the park boundary. Why is it a public nuisance? The illegal gating of the roads adds a distance of some ten kilometers for a return hike to Singing Pass. It makes Singing Pass a longer and exhausting day, particularly for seniors, families with children and all but the extremely fit. Hikers spend less time exploring the beauties of Garibaldi Provincial Park, instead are hiking relatively boring logging roads. Further, Whistler Blackcomb has failed to maintain the public road on the south side of Fitzsimmons Creek as required in its Master Development Agreement (MDA) with the Province of British Columbia.

A short history of the roads. A prospector's trail up Fitzsimmons Creek was built to Singing Pass, now in Garibaldi Provincial Park, and a miner's cabin constructed prior to World War I. The prospector's trail followed the valley bottom of Fitzsimmons Creek ascending to Singing Pass up Melody Creek. In the late 1950s, the Fitzsimmons valley was logged right up to the park boundary and logging roads were built on both the south and north sides of the creek. In 1964, the Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC) of the University of British Columbia working with BC Parks relocated the Singing Pass trail head from the miner's trail in the valley bottom to the end of the logging road on the south side of Fitzsimmons Creek. A parking facility with space for about twenty vehicles and outhouse were constructed. In the mid to late 1960s, mining permits were issued in the vicinity of Harmony Creek adjacent to Garibaldi Provincial Park. A mining road was extended from the parking lot to the park boundary. In 1972, BC Parks re-established the trail from the parking lot along the newer mining road. In 1982, Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation entered into its first MDA with the Province. The south side of Fitzsimmons Creek outside of Garibaldi Provincial Park was added to the corporation's controlled recreation area (CRA). In the agreement, Fitzsimmons Creek road was explicitly dedicated as a "public access road 20 meters in width" and "park access right-of-way." In 1991, the road was damaged by a natural landslip approximately 2.5 kilometers up the road. Private vehicles were blocked from reaching the trail head but continued to park before the landslip. Whistler Blackcomb did not repair the road slump as required in its MDA. Around 1995 or perhaps later, Whistler Blackcomb illegally gated the road on the south side thereby blocking private vehicles. In 2016, approximately $50,000 was spent by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to repair the road slump. In the 2000s, the original forestry road on the north side of Fitzsimmons Creek was upgraded to service the 2010 Whistler Olympic sliding centre and the Innergex run-of-river power project. The public road is gated at the Whistler Sliding Centre. Currently, commercial vehicle operations including Zip lines and all terrain vehicle tours are permitted on both roads whereas private vehicles are prohibited.

It is our position that under the Canadian common law doctrine of dedication and acceptance, public rights-of-way created in the manner described result in the public at large acquiring legally enforceable rights to use and enjoy the highways. Section 23 of British Columbia's Land Title Act defines a highway to include "a public street, path, walkway, trail, lane, bridge, road, thoroughfare and any other public way." Furthermore, lessees, in this case Whistler Blackcomb, do not have the power to deny the rights.

We rely for our understanding of the doctrine on an article entitled Highways, Parks and the Public Trust Doctrine, by Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law in the Journal of Environmental Law and Practice, October 2007 published by Thomson Canada Limited. To quote from page 3 of the article,

To paraphrase the case law, the dedication of a public highway can occur when a land owner indicates an intention to dedicate a right of way on his or her property for use by the public. If the public proceeds to use the highway, this signifies the public's acceptance of the dedication and a public right in the right of way is created. Public highways in this context include all public rights of way, including public footpaths.
(i) Dedication
An owner dedicates land by indicating an intention to set the land aside for the use of the public (i.e. as a public highway), not as a mere permission or licence, but for the public's permanent use. The dedication of land for a public highway may take place explicitly--when the owner directly invites the public to use the property--or it may be implied.
(ii) Acceptance
The public indicates acceptance of a dedication of a right of way (whether explicit or implied) by using the land as a road or path: if there is public use of a dedicated public right of way then the public will be held to have accepted the dedication.

There is implied dedication of Fitzsimmons Creek roads as a public roads since at least as early as the mid-1960s. There is the work performed by the VOC and BC Parks in 1964 to create the parking facility at the Singing Pass trail head. In 1968, the British Columbia Mountaineering Club wrote to the Honourable William Kenneth Kiernan, Minister of Recreation and Conservation with the concern that Garibaldi Lifts Ltd., the precursor company of Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation, now Whistler Blackcomb resort, ensure that existing access routes into Garibaldi Park be preserved. The letter specifically mentions Fitzsimmons Creek access. Mr. Kiernan replied, "We can assure you that no Park Use Permit will be issued to the company without due consideration being given to the effect that it will have on public access to and within Garibaldi Provincial Park."  These letters reside in the North Vancouver Archives with copies on our web site https://garibaldipark2020.com. Indeed, Garibaldi Lifts Ltd. used Fitzsimmons Creek road to service its Blue Chairlift and its use coexisted for over 30 years with the public use and private vehicle access.

Explicit dedication occurred in 1982 when Mr. Peter Alder, Vice President, Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation signed its first MDA with the Province. In private conversation last December with Mr. Chris Ludwig, co-founder of Garibaldi Park 2020, Mr. Alder stated that the MDA explicitly dedicated that private vehicular access be continued up Fitzsimmons Creek through the CRA to the parking lot at the park boundary. To that effect, the MDA includes a Schedule A containing a map of the road. The map clearly delineates the Fitzsimmons Creek road, the parking lot at the park boundary and the Singing Pass trail beginning at the parking lot. The road is shown as a different line type from the trail and on page 2 of the schedule is labelled as "public access road 20 meters in width" and "park access right-of-way". Further, Schedule I of the MDA contains a covenant that the resort will maintain all access routes and parking facilities. These legal documents are readily available on our web site https://garibaldipark2020.com or from Mountain Resorts Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

We, at my organization Garibaldi Park 2020, respectfully request the Attorney General act now to abate the public nuisance created by Whistler Blackcomb resort. Enjoin Whistler Blackcomb to remove the gates on both public roads up Fitzsimmons Creek and to restore and maintain the public right-of-way and parking lot on the south side of Fitzsimmons Creek. Compel Mountain Resorts Branch to honour its own policy to act in the public interest and follow through with its obligation to facilitate private vehicle access up Fitzsimmons Creek roads as required by Canadian common law and indeed, the MDA that it oversees. Furthermore, we note that the resort must fully comply with its legal obligations before it can proceed with further mountain development phases or its so-called $345 million Renaissance project. We respectfully request you place an injunction on further mountain development until the public nuisance is fully abated.
Sincerely yours,

[name withheld], co-founder, Garibaldi Park 2020

Garibaldi Park 2020 letter to Mr. Norman Lee, Executive Director, Mountain Resorts Branch on the failure of Whistler Blackcomb to satisfy all conditions required in its master development agreement with the Province and calls upon Mr. Lee to withhold approval on all subsequent mountain resort phases of development. Response from Mr. Lee with assigned reference no. 227618.

February 10, 2017

Norman Lee
Executive Director
Mountain Resorts Branch
PO Box 9852 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC
V8W9T5

Dear Mr. Lee,

Thank you for your email response dated September 30th, 2016 on the matter of public vehicle access to the designated parking lot at Singing Pass trail head, vicinity of Harmony Creek adjacent Garibaldi Provincial Park boundary at Fitzsimmons Creek. Your rebuttal hinges on the following statement, which I quote from your response:

The trail [Fitzsimmons Creek road] is not surveyed, nor is it tenured under Provincial legislation; therefore, it is not considered a designated statutory right-of-way and Article 14.06 of the Whistler MDA does not apply.

Article 14.06 of the MDA states:

An instrument conveying Crown Land to Whistler [Mountain] under this Article shall be subject to any statutory right-of-way that burdens the Crown Land.

Mountain Resorts Branch have as their articles that the road must be gazetted. (See your document Land Use Operational Policy, All Seasons Resort dated January 2, 2013, page 28.) 

A statutory right of way creates an interest in the land and requires a legal survey. The statutory right of way document to be used for Recreation Improvements is the form attached as a schedule to the MDA or OA.

Schedule A of the MDA is such a form and it clearly shows Fitzsimmons Creek road, the parking facility adjacent Garibaldi Provincial Park boundary in the vicinity of Harmony Creek, and the hiking trail beginning from the designated parking lot. A high resolution image of Schedule A of the MDA is here: Schedule A of MDA

Schedule A, page 2 clearly designates Fitzsimmons Creek road as both "public access road" and "park access right-of-way". An annotated image of Schedule A, page 2 (annotations provided by Mountain Resorts Branch) is here: Schedule A, page 2

Intent of the MDA

The intent of the 1982 MDA is that the public may transit the road year round and public vehicles during the months of May through November.

Up until the road first slumped in 1991, it was possible to drive to the trail head at the park boundary. Rupert Merer, a Whistler-based researcher and member of the Alpine Club of Canada, provided the following historical information to my organization.

But all was well for hikers until 1991 when the Fitzsimmons slump or slide occurred. The slump closed the access road below the parking lot, and later Whistler built a gate across the bottom of it. Was the gate legal? Probably not, because the 1982 MDA required Whistler to provide road access to all parking lots. Whistler then developed the bike park across the access road and took firm ownership of it.

Article 4.03 of the 1982 MDA states,

Whistler [Mountain] shall provide or cause to be provided Access Routes (a) by way of dedicated or gazetted road or by way of right-of-way to each Parking Facility.

Schedule I of the MDA states,

Whistler [Mountain] covenants and agrees with the Province as follows: (e) to maintain or cause to be maintained and to provide snow removal on all Access Routes and Parking Facilities.

It is a fact that Whistler Blackcomb did not repair the slump. That means they failed their undertaking in Schedule I for the last twenty-five years.

It is a fact that Whistler Blackcomb gated the road. As it is a public road, that is clearly a violation of article 4.03.

It is a fact that Whistler Blackcomb improperly states the Singing Pass Trail trail head is in Whistler Village rather than the "parking lot" adjacent the park boundary. Again, the trail head is clearly shown in Schedule A at the parking facility adjacent the park boundary. If we accept Whistler Blackcomb's position, according to Article 7.02(n) of the MDA persons wishing to transit the controlled recreation area to reach Garibaldi Park are giving up their right to do so December through April.

Failure to establish statutory right-of-way

It is also a fact that Whistler Blackcomb have failed to establish the statutory right-of-way to the Fitzsimmons Creek "parking lot". Here we understand the term "statutory right-of-way" to be synonymous with the term "gazetted road" in article 4.03 meaning that a legal survey of the road is registered under the Land Act. The wording of Article 4.03 is unambiguous. Article 4.03 states it is the obligation of Whistler Blackcomb to provide the legal survey, much the same as they do for chairlifts and gondolas. Several such statutory rights-of-way up Fitzsimmons Creek have recently been registered under the Land Act, for example, the road to the Innergex independent power project, the Olympic sliding centre and the Peak-to-Peak gondola.

Under the Land Act, the public would be the dominant tenement along the 20 meter wide right-of-way and Whistler Blackcomb the servient tenement. That would mean that the public right to freely transit the road year round cannot be interfered with by other uses within the controlled recreation area such as downhill skiing, ATV tours and the mountain bike park.

Withhold approval of subsequent Mountain Phases at Whistler Blackcomb

Whistler Blackcomb has failed to satisfy all conditions required to move to the next Mountain Phase of development. It has failed to maintain the Fitzsimmons Creek road and parking lot. It has not done the legal survey on the road and registered it under the Land Act. These are grounds for withholding approval of subsequent mountain development phases and the Renaissance project. Mountain Resorts Branch guidelines say the same thing, "Each phase of a resort’s development must represent a finished and appealing product".

We call upon Mountain Resorts Branch to honour its commitment to the public. Mountain Resorts Branch must immediately instruct Whistler Blackcomb to make good on its obligations before any further mountain resort phases of development or the Renaissance project are approved. Once the legal survey of Fitzsimmons Creek road is done, article 14.06 of the MDA would apply and public vehicle access to the park boundary must be restored.

Sincerely yours,

[name withheld], Garibaldi Park 2020 co-founder

cc: The Honourable Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
cc: George Heyman, MLA


Response from Mr. Lee with assigned reference no. 227618

February 17, 2017

 227618 MRBFLNRO 2017 02 17 page1

227618 MRBFLNRO 2017 02 17 page2

Garibaldi Park 2020 letter to Honourable Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations on private vehicle access along the public road to the designated parking lot at Singing Pass trail head, vicinity of Harmony Creek adjacent Garibaldi Provincial Park boundary at Fitzsimmons Creek. Response from Mr. Norman Lee, Executive Director, Mountain Resorts Branch with assigned reference no. 224595.

August 9, 2016


The Honourable Steve Thomson
Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
Room 248, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4

Dear Minister,

Re: Public vehicle access to designated parking lot at Singing Pass trail head, vicinity of Harmony Creek adjacent Garibaldi Provincial Park boundary at Fitzsimmons Creek

I represent a group of concerned Garibaldi Park users in the organization Garibaldi Park 2020. I wrote to you on April 21st this year regarding the legal obligation imposed on Whistler Blackcomb under its Master Development Agreement with the Province to maintain the public road and parking lot up Fitzsimmons Creek to the long standing Singing Pass trail head. The trail head is approximately five kilometers up Fitzsimmons Creek from the village of Whistler, in the vicinity of Harmony Creek adjacent to the Garibaldi Provincial Park boundary. I received a reply by email to my letter from Mr. Jim Standen, Assistant Deputy Minister, BC Parks and Conservation Officer Service Division under reference no. 298622. Attached to Mr. Standen's email message was a document titled Singing Pass Trail Backgrounder also dated April 21st, 2016. It is my understanding the backgrounder document was prepared by Ms. Tori Meeks, Acting Senior Manager, Major Projects of the Mountain Resorts Branch.

The backgrounder document references articles 7.02 (n) and 17 and Schedule A from the 1982 Whistler Master Development Agreement (MDA). I am pleased that Mountain Resorts Branch and Whistler Blackcomb are still using the 1982 MDA as the guiding legal document.

Schedule A map page 1 shows Singing Pass trail head ("hiking trail") as originating from the "parking lot" in the location five kilometers up Fitzsimmons Creek as I have described above. Schedule A map page 2 shows the Fitzsimmons Creek road as "20 meter public access road" and as "20 meter park access right of way".

Article 14.06 of the 1982 MDA states,

14.06 An instrument conveying Crown Land to Whistler under this Article shall
(a) except and reserve the rights, titles, interests and privileges referred to in section 47 of the Land Act;
(b) be subject to
    (i) any conditional or final water licence... the Water Act...
    (ii) the rights under the Mineral Act...  
    (iii) the rights of holders or owners under... the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act, ...
    (iv) any statutory right-of-way that burdens the Crown Land.

It is our opinion that Fitzsimmons Creek road is such a statutory right-of-way. Under the Land Title Act, the public are the dominant tenement and Whistler Blackcomb are the servient tenement.

What this means is that Whistler Blackcomb is in violation of the Land Act as it is restricting public vehicle access up Fitzsimmons Creek. Moreover, Whistler Blackcomb is failing to live up to its responsibility under the 1982 MDA to restore and maintain the Fitzsimmons Creek road and parking lot.

I am requesting that you immediately instruct Whistler Blackcomb to comply with its legal obligations under the Land Act and the master development agreement. Restore and maintain the public road and facilitate public vehicle access and parking at the trail head.

Sincerely yours,

[name withheld], Garibaldi Park 2020 co-founder


Response from Mr. Norman Lee with assigned reference no. 224595

September 30, 2017

 224595 MRBFLNRO 2016 09 30 page1

224595 MRBFLNRO 2016 09 30 page2

Garibaldi Park 2020 letter to Honourable Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations on restoring vehicular access to the historic Singing Pass trailhead. Response from Mr. Jim Standen, Assistant Deputy Minister, BC Parks and Conservation Officer Service Division with assigned reference no. 298622.

April 21, 2016

The Honourable Steve Thomson
Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
Room 248, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4

Dear Minister,

Re: Dispute over public access through Whistler Blackcomb CRA to Singing Pass trailhead

I am working with several recreation organizations to restore public vehicular access to the Singing Pass trailhead. The trailhead is at the boundary of Garibaldi Provincial Park at Fitzsimmons Creek. Its access road goes from Whistler Village through the Whistler Blackcomb controlled recreation area (CRA). At dispute is the position of Whistler Blackcomb. It was recently enunciated by Doug Forseth, its vice-president of planning, government relations and special projects. He stated that Whistler Blackcomb does not have a "legal obligation for public vehicle access". Moreover, he states that free public access is permitted only between May and November each year. These statements were made to The Squamish Chief newspaper and published April 13, 2016. The article can be seen at the following web URL: http://www.squamishchief.com/news/local-news/squamish-nation-essential-to-whistler-blackcomb-expansion-1.2230075


Pave the road to the park boundary and provide public parking
I strongly dispute Whistler Blackcomb's position. It does have a legal obligation to maintain access to the trailhead. Free access is permitted year round. Our position is backed by legal documents signed by Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation in 1982. The organizations that I work with, namely Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C., Alpine Club of Canada (Whistler section), GaribaldiPark2020.com and others in the backcountry recreation community are working on behalf of all outdoor enthusiasts. We never agreed to give up our right of public access.


Our position is also shared by BC Parks. In the 2014 Spearhead amendment to the Garibaldi Park master plan, it states that BC Parks will “Work with adjacent land managers to establish a new vehicle-accessible trailhead on the north side of Fitzsimmons Creek to provide summer access to the Singing Pass Trail.” At this time, myself and others know that your department, Mountain Resorts Branch is working against BC Parks' high priority strategy and the public interest. MRB seems to be taking its cue from Whistler Blackcomb. The corporation and MRB want the public to park in Whistler Village. That adds an extra five kilometers to a hike along a relatively boring section of old logging road. The public right-of-way is now shared with groomers, mountain bikes and ATVs. That is not the type of experience we are seeking. What the public wants is to park at the park boundary so they can spend more time enjoying the solitude and glories of Singing Pass and Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Whistler Blackcomb's objections are weak and self-serving. For example, they cite that the access road would be dangerous to the public. There is a new road that passes by the sliding centre built for the 2010 winter Olympics. That road is paved. The road passes an unfenced area containing scrap parts referred to as the "bone yard". Whistler Blackcomb pretends it presents a threat to the public. The objections are ludicrous. They would be easy to remedy. The access road can be paved all the way and the bone yard fenced.

A map showing the road access that is in dispute and the new road can be viewed at the following URL: SingingPassAccessProposed-2.jpg

Whistler Blackcomb stands to gain financially from their stance. If hikers have to start from Whistler Village many will take Whistler's lifts to gain the Musical Bumps trail in the alpine.

At the heart of the issue are assurances dating back to 1968 by then-Minister of Recreation and Conservation, Ken Kiernan. In response to a letter from the B.C. Mountaineering Club about the self-same issue, the honourable minister stated "We can assure you that no Park Use Permit will be issued to the above company [Garibaldi Lifts Limited] without due consideration being given to the effect that it will have on public access to and within Garibaldi Park." He is referring to the preservation of existing access routes into the park, e.g. the former mining road and Fitzsimmons Creek Trail to the new [in 1968] shelter at Singing Pass. These letters can be viewed at the following web URL: Singing Pass Trail Fiasco Summary

The Whistler Mountain 1982 Master Development Agreement between the Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing and Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation went further. It enshrined the public right-of-way to the park boundary as a legal obligation taken on by Whistler Mountain. In the agreement, article IV, section 4.03 (a) states "Whistler shall provide or cause to be provided Access Routes (a) by way of dedicated or gazetted road or by way of right-of-way to each Parking Facility". Schedule A of the agreement clearly delineates both the access road, parking facility and trail. The trailhead parking lot is five kilometers up Fitzsimmons Creek and near the park boundary. A high resolution image of Schedule A with annotations can be viewed at the following web URL: Schedule A of Whistler Mountain Master Development Agreement


In my mind, the text of the agreement coupled with Schedule A enjoins an unambiguous legal obligation on Whistler Blackcomb. They must allow public vehicular access to the parking lot at the park boundary.

On April 5, 2016 I spoke with Tori Meeks, Acting Senior Manager, Major Projects. In that phone conversation, Ms. Meeks stated that the legal obligation was "written away" and she is "championing" public access that does not meet that obligation. Since the order was written away, it must have existed.

When did Mountain Resorts Branch and Whistler Blackcomb enter into an agreement to write away our legal rights? Was there a specific document whereby those rights were abolished? Was there a specific document whereby those rights were not mentioned and thereby lapsed? Why was the public not informed?

Is Mountain Resorts Branch objective and independent? It sides with Whistler Blackcomb corporation to work against the mountain clubs representing the public interest. Why does Mountain Resorts Branch stand against BC Parks' strategic interest and the commitment made by your predecessor in provincial cabinet?

Under what authority can Mountain Resorts Branch "write away" the public right of access? Is this action, the so-called writing away of legal rights even legal? What exactly does it mean that the legal obligation was written away? As a Senior Manager of Major Projects, Tori Meeks must have the answers. I want those answers to be provided.

To be fair, the dispute is not new. It has been an ongoing issue with those of us in the outdoors communitiy for over sixteen years. Granted, the Fitzsimmons Creek road suffered a landslip that rendered it unsafe. There is now a new road. The Olympic sliding centre road and the recent completion of the Fitzsimmons clean energy project have now provided a viable access road to the park boundary. That is why we are revisiting the issue today. With the recent granting of park use permits to build Spearhead huts it is even more important that we have public parking at the park boundary.

Mountain Resorts Branch: withhold approval of Whistler Blackcomb's Renaissance project
It is time to force Whistler Blackcomb to live up to its legal obligations. It willingly took on those obligations in 1982 in return for the generous concessions granted to it by way of its CRA. Whistler Blackcomb is now requesting approval of its Renaissance project. Approval by Mountain Resorts Branch must be withheld until Whistler Blackcomb reverses its opposition, paves the road to the park boundary and provides public parking. The right of public access must be written back into the Whistler Blackcomb master plan.

Sincerely yours,
[name withheld]

cc: The Honourable Mary Polak, Minister of Environment
cc: George Heyman, MLA


Response from Mr. Jim Standen, Assistant Deputy Minister, BC Parks and Conservation Officer Service Division with assigned reference no. 298622.

May 18, 2016

Dear [name withheld]:

Thank you for your email of April 21, 2016, addressed to the Honourable Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, regarding over public access to the Singing Pass trailhead. As Assistant Deputy Minister for BC Parks, I am pleased to respond.

BC Parks is working closely with the Mountain Resorts Branch to find a solution to this issue that will provide safe public access to Singing Pass. A working group has been established to facilitate communication and cooperation between the user groups, stakeholders, local land managers, and municipal and provincial government.

Whistler Blackcomb has a legal obligation to provide public access through both its Whistler and Blackcomb Controlled Recreation Areas; however, this commitment extends to pedestrian access only, and such access is subject to the rights of Whistler Blackcomb to control access within the Controlled Recreation Areas, as stated in the 1982 Master Development Agreement. The relevant excerpts are included on page 5 of a backgrounder that has been prepared by the working group about this issue, and is attached for your reference.

The working group has identified a solution that will involve considerable investment in trail improvements to the existing Singing Pass trail. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, BC Parks and Whistler Blackcomb are combining resources to upgrade and re-route the trail. These trail improvements will address public safety concerns created by the Fitzsimmons slump and by more recent washouts along Flute and Harmony Creeks. This will provide a safer route for summer and winter use. In addition to the trail improvements, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is also seeking to establish the trail under Section 56 of the Forest and Range Practices Act.

Vehicle access to the park (or closer proximity to the park) has been explored and is not considered feasible at this time. The road on the Blackcomb side of the valley presents a number of challenges to public use, including its industrial nature for the purpose of ski hill operations and maintenance. There are multiple tenures along this road, including a Crown land lease for the Whistler Sliding Centre, which has controlled access and protocol agreements in place with users of the road. The road is not intended for public use.

The attached backgrounder also provides additional detail about the options that have been considered and the solution that is proposed.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

Sincerely,

Jim Standen

Assistant Deputy Minister

BC Parks and Conservation Officer Service Division

Attachment

cc:        Honourable Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations