Early 1900s, Singing Pass at the head of Fitzsimmons Creek had a history of mining and hunting prior to establishment of Garibaldi Provincial Park.
October, 1915 the British Columbia Mountaineering Club petitions the Minister of Lands to create a "park reserve in the Mount Garibaldi District...that its remarkable assemblage of glacial, volcanic and other natural features may be preserved unimpaired for the instruction and recreation of the people of Western Canada."
April 1917, the petition on the future Garibaldi Park, is supported by the Alpine Club of Canada.
In 1927, Garibaldi Park is established. The original park boundary included all 33 square kilometers of the high elevation terrain that is now part of Whistler-Blackcomb resort.
In 1928, a map of Fitzsimmons Creek is published showing a pack trail from Alta Lake to ‘Avalanche Pass’, later renamed Singing Pass. The trail seems to follow the route of the current IPP access road on the north side of the Creek, and it crossed to the south side of the creek at a point close to the new intake. The pack trail provided access to a number of mine workings in the valley.
1950s, logging up Fitzsimmons Creek to the park boundary in the 1950s opened up access to private vehicles. Roads up both north and south sides of the creek are open to the public.
In 1964, the Varsity Outdoor Club of the University of British Columbia working with BC Parks relocate the Singing Pass trail head. It moves 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.
1964, In planning for the 1968 Winter Olympics, Bert Port, one of the original skiers to complete the Fitzsimmons Horseshoe Traverse (now known as the Spearhead Traverse) recalls he was a VOC representative who met with the original Garibaldi Olympic Development Association (GODA). He was assured by GODA "that there would always be access to the Park."
In 1965, Dick Culbert, the legendary Coast Range climber published a climbing guide that stated there were roads on each side of Fitzsimmons Creek to the park boundary. The road on the south side of Fitzsimmons Creek was used by hikers to access a parking lot about 5 km above Whistler’s main day lots. From there Singing Pass is about 7 km and Russet Lake another 3 km so that a hiker could explore beyond Russet lake on a day trip. The logging road on the South side of the Creek was also used by hikers but there was no permanent bridge over the Creek.
In 1965, downhill ski operations commenced on Whistler Mountain by Garibaldi Lifts Ltd. Some lifts are in Garibaldi Provincial Park and the company is issued a park use permit.
In 1967, the B.C. Mountaineering Club built the Himmelsbach hut, a 10-person, public backcountry mountaineering hut at Russet Lake, Singing Pass.
July 6, 1968, the B.C. Mountaineering Club wrote to the Honourable Ken Kiernan, Minister of Recreation and Conservation "to ensure preservation of existing access routes into the park (e.g. Fitzsimmons Creek Trail to the new shelter at Singing Pass built by the B.C.M.C.)" On July 22, the Honourable Mr. Kiernan responds, "We can assure you that no Park Use Permit will be issued to [Garibaldi Lifts Ltd.] without due consideration being given to the effect that it will have on public access to and within Garibaldi Park."
1972, a mine was constructed at Harmony Creek and in 1972 the Singing Pass trail was relocated by BC Parks to follow the mining road.
In 1973, Order In Council no. 1293 deletes from Garibaldi Park all the high elevation terrain around Whistler Mountain summit, "containing 2,400 acres more or less", just over 9 ½ km2 that now comprises the upper ski development of Whistler Mountain including Whistler Peak, West Bowl, Burnt Stew basin and Peak 2 Peak gondola. The OIC states the deleted park lands "have been examined and have been found to be more suited for a commercial ski development than for park development."
June 19, 1975, Whistler, B.C. is designated a Resort Municipality with a distinctive governance system under the Resort Municipality of Whistler Act under the provincial NDP government.
In 1978, Order In Council no. 2863 deletes about 3 km2 of Fitzsimmons Creek valley and about 5 km2 of high elevation terrain on Blackcomb Mountain from Garibaldi Park. The deleted park lands, "780 hectares more or less", almost 8 km2 are given to Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain Resorts. The OIC states the deleted park lands "have been examined and have been found to be more suited for commercial and municipal winter recreation development than for park development."
December 6, 1980, Blackcomb first opened for skiing. The resort was developed by Aspen Ski Corporation. At the time, Aspen could not believe it was possible to come to British Columbia and open 18 months after first looking at the site. On this mountain the original Park boundary ran north-south about one third of the way up the Solar Coaster chair. Without changes to the Park boundary Blackcomb would have been a tiny resort, almost all below 1600 metres.
1982, Al Raine, a consultant to the British Columbia Ministry of Lands, Provincial Ski Area Coordination developed British Columbia's first ski area policy and the assessment and approval process for the development of ski areas and related tourism potential - the Commercial Alpine Ski Policy (CASP). CASP created a policy framework with three major purposes: (1) issuing land tenures, (2) defining different ski areas, and (3) outlining a procedural guide for developers and government. CASP used four land tenure tools: lease, licence of occupation, right of way and direct sales. CASP created a procedural framework for developing ski areas which include: expression of interest, formal proposal, financial performance guarantee, ski area master plan, and master developer agreement.
In 1982, Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation (formerly Garibaldi Lifts Ltd.) entered into its first master development agreement (MDA) with the Province. Fitzsimmons Creek road (south side) was explicitly dedicated in Schedule A of the agreement as a "public access road 20 meters in width" and "park access right-of-way." Article 4.03 of the MDA states it is the responsibility of Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation to establish Fitzsimmons Creek road as a statutory right of way as described in Schedule A. The legal survey to establish the right-of-way was never done. The document was never made public.
1983, a $21 million loan bails out the bankrupt village of Whistler and viewed by many as a bailout of the rich.
In 1985, Order In Council no. 1633 deletes about 2 km2 of high elevation terrain northwest of Blackcomb Peak from Garibaldi Park. The deleted lands are given to Blackcomb Mountain Resort to become part of its sprawling Seventh Heaven terrain. The park as established in by Order in Council 1069 by parliament in 1953 is cancelled and re-established as a Class "A" park but with the said 2 km2 deleted.
In 1987, Order In Council no. 2325 deletes about a further 2 km2 of high elevation terrain due west of Blackcomb Mountain and roughly 4 km2 at Harmony Bowl from Garibaldi Park. The deleted lands are added to Seventh Heaven on Blackcomb and Harmony Bowl on Whistler. The park land base declines from "194,938.9 hectares, more or less" to "194,323.9 hectares, more or less", about 6 km2.
September 1990, Garibaldi Provincial Park Master Plan approved
After public meetings concluded, the Garibaldi Park 1990 master plan was approved. On page 26, Plan Implementation, Phase 2 (Year 2 - 5) it states, "secure trailhead access at Cheakamus Lake, Singing Pass, Blackcomb and Wedgemount Lake." On page 27, the development map clearly marks the Singing Pass parking lot adjacent the park boundary on the south side of Fitzsimmons Creek with a large letter P in a black box. The same symbol is used for Wedgemount, Rubble Creek, Cheakamus and Diamond Head parking lots. In the accompanying background report in Appendix I on page 26, the Singing Pass trail is described as approximately 7.5 kilometers in length and rises 600 meters. This clearly puts the trailhead at the designated parking lot next to the park boundary and not in the village of Whistler.
As part of the master plan, the area comprising Blackcomb Provincial Park was deleted from Garibaldi Provincial Park. Blackcomb Provincial Park is viewed as a reserve for downhill skiing expansion.
In 1991, the Fitzsimmons Creek road (south) was damaged by a natural landslip approximately 2 ½ 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.
Early 1990s, Whistler Municipal Heliport is constructed to consolidate the numerous helipads springing up throughout Whistler. It is built with federal and provincial money of over $3 million. It has a central helipad for use by both leaseholders and itinerant users and five lease lots to be leased out to aviation companies.
April 21, 1993, Premier Mike Harcourt signs a master development agreement with Nippon Cable in Tokyo to develop Sun Peaks Resort. The political pressure from the premier on the provincial bureaucrats charged with creating the deal was described as an "inexorable force."
June 8, 1995, the Mountain Resort Association Act is enacted by the provincial legislature. The act is intended to provide other resort communities with the same governance tools that were afforded to Whistler through the Resort Municipality of Whistler act.
Around 1995 or perhaps later, Whistler Blackcomb unilaterally gated the Fitzsimmons Creek road on the south side thereby blocking private vehicles from the public access road. The public was now faced with hiking an extra 4 ½ kilometers of boring logging road before reaching the park boundary.
In 1996, the Whistler Mountain Bike Park opened. More recently, the bike park has expanded and several downhill bike trails cross over or run along the public access road. At some point all terrain vehicle tours used the public road.
May 15, 2002, Bill 54, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 2002 amends the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act, which "removes 87 hectares from Garibaldi Park and returns 113 hectares removed from the park in 1987 to allow the development of ski facilities." See MISCELLANEOUS STATUTES AMENDMENT ACT (NO. 2), 2002 INTRODUCED
June 14, 2002, Pique Newsmagazine publishes an article on the Bill 54 land swap ParkWatch to review Flute basin land swap. Garibaldi Park boundary was adjusted to provide more space to Whistler Blackcomb on the summit of Piccolo mountain. 113 acres of unremarkable mountainside in the Fitzsimmons valley was traded for 87 acres of prime alpine land at the bottom of Flute Bowl. According to the article, Whistler Blackcomb maintains "the majority of the area fell within the Whistler Mountain boundaries after a 1987 tenure review... [and their] position is that current boundaries are the result of an oversight when redrawing the boundaries in 1987, and that the mountain had always planned lift access for the Flute basin". The trade was required for "avalanche control" in Flute Bowl. (There was no prior public meeting because allegedly the decision was made about 8 years earlier at a park public meeting.)
2003, in her Throne Speech, Lieutenant-Governor Iona Campagnolo announces the government's intention to double the tourism sector in size by 2010. She announces the creation of a Resort Task Force to help develop new resort specific policies and programs. It is to operate for one year and is comprised of 15 members from industry, local government and First Nations. A significant number in the Task Force had or were involved with Whistler.
2004, Whistler Blackcomb opens its Flute Bowl on lands that were deleted in 2003 from the park. The expansion brings "signage, avalanche control and ski patrol sweeps to an area that was previously in Whistler [Mountain's] backcountry" according to an article in Pique Newsmagazine Flute expansion okay if no lifts planned. The article says "most park advocacy groups say they can live with the expansion...[but] are opposed to a new lift". Whistler Blackcomb said in 2002 "that the mountain had always planned lift access for the Flute basin."
2004, Resorts Development Branch is established by the provincial government under the Ministry of Land and Water BC. It is a one-stop shop for resort developers and follows the creation of the Resort Task Force.
2005, All-Season Resort Policy is introduced
Mountain Resorts Branch is created from the Resort Development Branch. The Resort Development Branch originally operated under the Ministry of Land and Water BC, then under Ministry of Tourism, Sports and the Arts. Finally, it was brought into the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, whereupon it was renamed the Mountain Resorts Branch.
Mountain Resorts Branch introduced its All-Season Resort Policy (ASRP), using the Commercial Alpine Ski Policy (CASP) as a model with a focus on reducing and preventing land use conflicts.
The ASRP states in part, "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...")
Winter 2006, Whistler Blackcomb's 2006/2007 season saw the construction and opening of the Symphony Express, a high speed quad that begins towards the bottom of the Symphony Amphitheater and carries riders to the top of Piccolo. The expansion provides lift access to Flute Bowl, something the Alpine Club of Whistler and Sea to Sky Parkwatch had opposed in 2002 and 2004.
October 2007, Andrew Gage of Westcoast Environmental Law publishes an article Highways, Parks and the Public Trust Doctrine in the Journal of Environmental Law and Practice. Parts of the summary that are relevant to the Singing Pass issue are:
Under the Doctrine, a private property owner's actions (or in some cases inaction) may result in the creation of legally enforceable public rights of use of lands for recreational or other public purposes.
The consequences of such public rights depend upon the specific public use for which the land has been dedicated, but generally prevent a property owner from using his or her property in a way that infringes upon the public use (thereby creating a public nuisance). For government the trust-like obligations are still broader, including a positive obligation not to allow others to infringe on the public's right, and possibly an obligation to take positive steps to prevent infringement of the public rights from occurring.
September 15, 2008, Transworld Business reports on commencement of construction of Innergex Renewable Energy's and Ledcor Power Group's Fitzsimmons Creek Hydro Project, "located entirely within Whistler Blackcomb’s operating area..." The article goes on to say, "'Whistler Blackcomb is a strategic partner in the project, their efforts to facilitate the water rights licensing and coordinate the various stakeholders allowed the project to move ahead,' says Jamie Horner, Project Manager for the Fitzsimmons Creek Hydro Project. Whistler Blackcomb is directly involved in the construction and environmental stewardship of the project."
2009, Whistler Municipal Heliport is expanded further to accommodate the increase in military presence for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
November 27, 2009, Pique Newsmagazine reports that the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) of the 2010 Winter Olympics will hand over the keys to the Whistler Olympic venues to the Whistler 2010 Sport Legacy Society. Those venues are Whistler Sliding Centre, Whistler Olympic Park and the Whistler Athletes' Centre. Pique article Keith Bennet is president and CEO. Diane Mombourquette is vice president of corporate services. Paul Shore directs WSC. Todd Allison directs WAC. Lindsay Scott Durno directs WOP. The executive team is overseen by a board of directors chaired by Bill France. The sport legacies are supported by a $110 million endowment provided by the federal and provincial governments.
January, 2010 Innergex's Fitzsimmons Creek run-of-river hydroelectric power plant begins commercial operation. The 7.5 MW facility receives a subsidy of $10/MW-hr from the federal government for the first ten years. The intake for the facility is less than one kilometer from the park boundary and the Singing Pass parking lot.
September 1, 2010, the Whistler Question reporting on a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Innergex Fitzsimmons Creek power project, quotes Arthur Dejong, Whistler Blackcomb's mountain planning and environmental resource manager as saying "70 per cent of the land used for the project was already disturbed. Much of the penstock travels under a forest service road that was in use before the Fitzsimmons project was planned... The environmental impacts are 'minimal'" The article continues to say that "water diverted from the creek then flows into WB's nearby snowmaking pond [below the powerhouse]".
September 14, 2010, BC Hydro in a news release regarding the Innergex Fitzsimmons Creek power project states "Whistler Blackcomb Resort supported the project from the get-go." The project footprint is clearly visible from the Peak 2 Peak gondola. The BC Hydro article states "it's safe to say that as Peak 2 Peak riders gaze down at Fitzsimmons they are seeing much more than a small power project..." refering to its contribution to sustainability in the mountain town of Whistler.
2010 Winter Olympics: 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 resort access roads, Zip lines and all terrain vehicle tours are permitted on both roads whereas private vehicles are prohibited.
January 25, 2011, John Morris, president of the Whistler Heliport Society and one of the owners of Blackcomb Aviation begins a series of large private and corporate political donations to the BC Liberals and Christy Clark.
February, 2011, Agency, Stakeholder and First Nation comments for the draft Garibaldi Park 1990 Master Plan are released to the public. BC Parks proposes a Singing Pass trailhead parking lot at the Innergex penstock. BC Parks commits to pay for the trailhead parking facility and a footbridge across Fitzsimmons Creek to the old Singing Pass trailhead. Whistler Blackcomb commits "to providing the most practical free public access possible to Garibaldi Park." Recreation Sites and Trails Branch of Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations states, "RSTBC agrees with BC Parks's [sic] position that: (a) Singing Pass access [is] not appealing [and is] difficult and [has] parking issues. (b) Provide summer vehicle access on north side of Fitzsimmons Creek to penstock. BC Parks will construct bridge and trailhead parking facility."
September 10, 2012, roundtable discussion convened by Innergex in Whistler at the Whistler Blackcomb administration office with Singing Pass stakeholders in attendance to discuss issues and concerns relating to improving access to Singing Pass trail from the north side of Fitzsimmons Creek. The proposed road and trail options pass through tenures and rights-of-way owned by Whistler-Blackcomb, Whistler Sliding Centre and Innergex. Other stakeholders include BC Parks, Resort Municipality of Whistler, Recreation Sites and Trails BC. The Alpine Club of Whistler was there representing the self-propelled backcountry recreation community. Five options are identified: (1) Public parking in Lot 8, 3.5 km trail to Innergex upstream facility, new Fitzsimmons Creek footbridge and signage to existing Singing Pass trail. (2) Shuttle bus to Innergex upstream facility, new Fitzsimmons Creek footbridge and signage to existing Singing Pass trail. (3) Better signage only on existing trail. This was just advanced as a short term or interim stop gap. (4) New trail from Cheakamus Lake Road. (5) Public parking at Innergex upstream facility, new Fitzsimmons Creek footbridge and signage to existing Singing Pass trail. It is not recorded who took the minutes but unattributed opinion gave option #5 a negative slant by stating "parking at intake with public access through the WSC presents many challenges and may be a more difficult option" whereas all other options were presented without commentary. The minutes are here: 2012-09-10 meeting-notes Fitzsimmons Creek Trail Bridge
August, 2013, Alpine Club of Canada, Whistler section receives a copy of the Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation 1982 Master Development Agreement from Terry Pratt, Executive Director, Mountain Resorts Branch. This was the first time the secret 1982 agreement was made public.
September 9, 2013, The Tyee (online news, culture, solutions) reports that the Elections BC database lists $968,495 of political donations from Francesco Aquilini and various companies, such as Aquilini Development and Construction Inc., Aquilini Group Properties LP, 1941 Garibaldi, Parkview Terrace-Franklin, Renfrew Garden, Triumph 1975, Aquilini Renewable Energy LP, Camp Developments Corp., GERI Partnership, K&L Land Partnership, K and A Investments and Tri Power Developments LP. Most donations went to the BC Liberals; the 2007 ownership trial heard how Francesco socialized with former finance minister Gary Collins and now-deputy premier Rich Coleman.
January 8, 2014 An article from the law firm Stuart, McDannold, Stuart highlights two cases from 2014 that shine a light on different interpretations of Section 42 of the Transportation Act and the application of the common law doctrine of dedication and acceptance. My Way or the Highway? Two New Cases on Section 42 Roads (2014)
March 20, 2014, Mike Quinn, president of Spearhead Aviation Ltd. writes to Pique Newsmagazine outlining what he perceives as conflict of interest in the management of the Whistler Municipal Heliport by the Whistler Heliport Society. Mr. Quinn writes in his letter,
According to Mr. [John] Morris [president of the Whistler Heliport Society, who also happens to be one of the owners of Blackcomb Aviation], of the five lots available for lease to aviation companies, three have been assigned to Blackcomb Aviation and the other two have been assigned to Whistler Heli-Skiing, a company owned by Whistler Mountain Resort Limited Partnership (Whistler Blackcomb Holdings owns 75 per cent of this company). Notwithstanding the fact that Whistler Heli-Skiing is not an aviation company and should not even be allowed to set up shop at the heliport, the argument that both of those companies need the entire heliport for their own needs is indefensible. Blackcomb Aviation supplies the helicopters that Whistler Heli-Skiing uses for its operations so effectively Blackcomb Aviation has the whole heliport as a private preserve.
(I believe) there is huge conflict of interest in having the only aviation company based at the heliport in control of the society that manages the heliport.
The facility was built with public money for the greater good of the municipality not for the private use by one company.
May 12, 2014 Raymond James Ltd. issues a buy recommendation on Whistler Blackcomb Holdings with a target price of $19.50 CDN. CEO David Brownlie is listed as an insider owning 61,265 shares.
February 2014 - Spearhead Amendment to the Garibaldi Park 1990 Master Plan
The Spearhead Amendment to the Garibalid Park 1990 Master Plan is approved. The plan amendment is driven by a number of emerging issues, one of which is "a need to improve public access, including vehicle access to trailheads..." Singing Pass is identified as a main access point into Garibaldi Park. The amendment states, "In recent years a slope failure has eliminated all vehicle access to the former Singing Pass trailhead (situated outside the park). As a result, park visitors have an additional four kilometre hike on a rough road to join up with the existing trail inside the park." The public expressed strong support for improved access.
A high priority strategy is stated, "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." Under Management Direction, "BC Parks proposes to improve access by developing a new Singing Pass trailhead on the north side of Fitzsimmons Creek. The implementation of this will require access agreements with adjacent land managers, including Whistler Blackcomb, Whistler Sliding Centre, and the operator of the Fitzsimmons waterpower project. "
Related high priority items were, "work with Whistler Blackcomb to develop public access rights-of-way through the Controlled Recreation Area" and "solicit proposals for the development of huts in the Spearhead Area."
Appendix I describes potential impacts of proposed recreation activities on Mountain Goats in the Spearhead Area. It is clear that there is insufficient data on the Fitzsimmons Creek mountain goat population and such sparse research and monitoring that drawing conclusions about mitigation strategies and management practices is unjustified.
May 2015, the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC (FMCBC) contacted the Mountain Resort Branch (MRB) to inquire about progress on the Singing Pass Trail. MRB re-established the working group. However, it appears the working group excluded representatives of the public recreation sector such as the FMCBC and Alpine Club of Canada, Whistler section.
June and July 2015 Mountain Resorts Branch chaired two meetings in June and July with BC Parks, Recreation Sites and Trails BC, Resort Municipality of Whistler and Whistler Sliding Centre reps to discuss Singing Pass access options. Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC and Alpine Club of Canada, Whistler section note that they were not invited to the meetings. From those meetings only two options emerged. (1) Public parking in Lot 8, hiking along the industrial road to the Innergex upstream facility, new Fitzsimmons Creek footbridge and signage to existing Singing Pass trail. (2) Improve the existing trail on the south side of Fitzsimmons Creek.
July 22, 2015 Singing Pass access site visit by Whistler Blackcomb, BC Parks, Whistler Sliding Centre, Mountain Resorts Branch and public user groups. The group convened to walk through the Whistler Sliding Centre to the cat track that may provide walking access up Fitzsimmons Creek to the proposed footbridge location.
October 2015, the self-appointed working group established by Mountain Resorts Branch advised FMCBC and ACC that they had decided that the Blackcomb Option was the preferred option and offered the most benefits for the public. However, shortly after that correspondence, a site visit conducted by Alister McCrone (RSTBBC) and Katy Chambers (BC Parks) to ground-truth the preferred option and gather more information, resulted in an assessment that the benefits of the Blackcomb option might not outweigh the costs. [The reasons for the assessment were not made public.] It was concluded that more conversation with the working group and more detailed cost estimates were warranted.
January 2016, the Minister of Environment, Honourable Mary Polak approves the issuance of the Environmental Assessment Certificate for Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) development on Brohm Ridge. The certificate is issued despite the negative impacts the project has on high value mountain goat winter habitat. The Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) made its decision on GAS in part on the environmental assessment (EA) provided by the proponent's consulting firm - ENKON environmental. The ENKON assessment admitted that it only studied the GAS project area and did not take into account regional impacts. It was noticeable in several areas that wildlife disruptions were glossed over with meaningless generalizations. For example, the report did not identify where mountain goats overwintering at Brohm Ridge give birth after they migrate to summer range. There is a void of data outside the project study area yet the EA concludes there is no impact on mountain goats.
February 12, 2016 Pique Newsmagazine reports "BC Parks issued a Park Use Permit allowing for the construction of three year-round huts along the 40-kilometre Spearhead ski traverse." The first hut to be built is the Russet hut, Singing Pass expected to be finished in winter 2018.
March 6, 2016, the grassroots advocacy organization Garibaldi Park 2020 requests a copy of the Whistler Heli-skiing permit for Garibaldi Provincial Park from BC Parks. The request is denied.
March 22, 2016, the organization Garibaldi Park 2020 submits a Freedom of Information request the the heli-skiing permits in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
April 21, 2016, Mountain Resorts Branch issues a backgrounder report on Singing Pass access summarizing the only two options it will consider for improving access. The two options are the ones arising from the June and July 2015 closed group discussions that excluded public backcountry recreation representatives. It recommends the second option to upgrade the existing Singing Pass trail, which barely qualifies as an option to "improve" access. The report, however, continues to examine what is termed "private vehicle challenges" which is a way of acknowledging that there is a third option of public parking at the Innergex upstream facility that they refuse to discuss.
April 25, 2016, the organization Garibaldi Park 2020 obtains the Commercial Recreation Park Use Permit between Whistler Heli Skiing Ltd. and Her Majesty the Queen. The permit area covers 51 square kilometers of Garibaldi Park.
April 26, 2016 Mountain Resorts Branch convenes a meeting in Whistler to present its backgrounder report from April 21st and push its preferred option to upgrade the existing Singing Pass trail with no public parking option. The Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC and the Alpine Club of Canada, Whistler section are invited to the meeting. These two groups represent the self-propelled backcountry recreation users and again make the point they want public parking at the Innergex upstream facility although MRB refuses to consider their argument.
June 23, 2016 mapping by the organization Garibaldi Park 2020 reveals for the first time that a commercial recreation park use permit for helicopter landing zones inside Garibaldi Park's wilderness conservation zone was granted to Whistler Heli Skiing Ltd. by BC Parks. If that is not bad enough, harmful noise, according to the Ministry of Environment's own research, from Decker, Trorey and Tremor landing zones blankets virtually the entire Mountain Goat winter range on the south side of the Spearhead Range, an area of approximately 12 km2.
August 22, 2016, journalist Jennifer Thuncher of The Squamish Chief newspaper interviews Garibaldi Park 2020 co-founder Chris Ludwig about the perception there is a double standard employed by the Ministry of Environment. The one for commercial interests allows trespass by mechanized park users into the wilderness conservation zone, the trammelling of park values and the extirpation of mountain goats from their winter range in the Spearhead Range. Ministry of Environment staff continue to deny that the heli-ski permit trespasses into Garibaldi Park's wilderness conservation zone. Yet, GP 2020 used the park zoning map in the Garibaldi Park 1990 master plan as the basis for the zone's boundary. It used the Spearhead heli-skiing permit boundary from the park use permit, the contents of which GP 2020 won from the government through a freedom of information request.
Summer 2016, approximately $50,000 was spent by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to repair the slump on the Fitzsimmons Creek southside road. In October, the road repair immediately washes out with rain. This work follows on from the April 26th, 2016 meeting convened by Mountain Resorts Branch and the access option it selected to upgrade the existing trail. Whistler-Blackcomb offers "privileged access" for $50/person or $200 for a family of four to ride their lifts around the slump and continue to Singing Pass.
September 17, 2016, the organization Garibaldi Park 2020 wrote to the Honourable Mary Polak, Minister of Environment demanding that the Whistler Heli-skiing park use permit for the Spearhead Range not be renewed in October 2016 when the current permit expires. GP 2020 cited the significant irregularities with the permit that its Freedom of Information request uncovered.
Fall 2016, Vail Resorts buys out Whistler Blackcomb in a $1.4 billion deal. Shares in Whistler Blackcomb Holdings go from $19 to $37 per share in a matter of weeks. CEO David Brownlie's personal shares, as reported in Raymond James 2014 research paper, would have increased about $1.25 million from their value in May 2014.
November 14, 2016, the organization Garibaldi Park 2020 again writes to the Minister of Environment after meeting with BC Parks representatives in North Vancouver to discuss the mapping of the Wilderness Conservation Zone boundary. BC Parks did not present such a map nor does it appear that one was ever created even for internal use. GP 2020 cites a disturbing pattern of irregularities with Whistler Heli-skiing Ltd. park use permit.
- Wilful lack of due diligence by park staff in mapping conflicting park uses.
- Intrusion of heli-skiing deeply into the Wilderness Conservation Zone, clearly contrary to the intent of the zoning.
- Gross violation of ministry guidelines pertaining to commercial heli-skiing near Mountain Goat Ungulate Winter Range.
- Apparent failure to follow BC Parks' impact assessment process both for the expired PUP and the permit under renewal.
December 21, 2016, Mr. Jim Standen, Assistant Deputy Minister at BC Parks writes to the organization Garibaldi Park 2020 about the Whistler Heli-skiing permit. Mr. Standen confirmed that the significant irregularities with Whistler Heli-skiing Ltd.'s park use permit (PUP) cited by GP 2020 do exist. Despite the irregularities the permit was renewed for a further ten years.
January 10, 2017, in what the organization Garibaldi Park 2020 hails as a victory for accountability, BC Parks provided the organization with a new map of Garibaldi Park showing the overlapping Wilderness Conservation Zone (WCZ) and heli-skiing permit area boundaries. The WCZ zone boundary in vicinity of the Spearhead Range was moved about 1 km east, thereby deleting 9 km2 from it. Despite the boundary adjustment, the revised park map still shows an overlap between the renewed Whistler Heli-ski tenure the WCZ.
January 24, 2017, the annual report for Whistler Heliport Society obtained from BC Registries and Online Services lists the society's directors. LinkedIn and Facebook searches reveal at least three of the seven directors have direct ties to Whistler Heli-skiing (majority owned by Whistler Blackcomb, now owned by Vail Resorts) or its subcontractor Blackcomb Aviation. The directors and affiliations (from LinkedIn and/or Facebook):
- Ken Glaze, Principal at VertiFlight International Consulting Inc.
- Steve Gray, Helicopter Pilot/Manager at Blackcomb Aviation, Whistler (Film Camera Pilot)
- Doug Hare, Pilot/Manger, retired
- John Morris, Principal at Blackcomb Aviation, Blackcomb Helicopters
- Peter Murray, President and Operations Manager, Talon Helicopters, and Search and Rescue pilot
- Mike Sadan, GM at Whistler Heli-skiing, part time ski guide
- Dylan Thomas
February 10, 2017 the organization Garibaldi Park 2020 writes to Mr. Norman Lee, Executive Director, Mountain Resorts Branch to withhold its approval of all subsequent Mountain Phases of development at Whistler Blackcomb until such time as all its conditions regarding previous Mountain Phases are met. The core issue is the failure of Whistler Blackcomb to register the interest of the public in the matter of public vehicle use of Fitzsimmons Creek road.
Late February 2017, in the dying days of the BC Liberal government's mandate, the Honourable Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations approves Vail Resorts' 60-year master development agreement for Whistler Blackcomb despite the organization Garibaldi Park 2020 repeatedly stating in letters to his ministry that Whistler Blackcomb was not in compliance with its previous master development agreements over the Fitzsimmons Creek road and that his own ministry policies and legal obligations on Whistler Blackcomb are cause to deny approval of subsequent mountain phases.
March 15, 2017, Elections BC Financial Reports and Political Contributions System reports a total of $67,375 was donated to Christy Clark and the BC Liberal Party over 12 years by Whistler Blackcomb Mountain Resorts Ltd., and Blackcomb Aviation LP (which is the aviation company contracted by Whistler Heli-skiing, a subsidiary of Whistler Blackcomb) and Omega Air Corp Blackcomb Aviation. Vail Resorts Inc., the new owner of Whistler Blackcomb, registered lobbyists Earnscliffe Strategy Group, Bruce Young and Don Stickney with Elections BC that made donations to the BC Liberal Party to the tune of $250,000.
March 29, 2017, the grassroots advocacy organization Garibaldi Park 2020 appeals to Attorney General Suzanne Anton to intervene in the alleged public nuisance created by Whistler Blackcomb in the matter of private vehicle use of the Fitzsimmons Creek roads. The organization cites the implicit dedication of the roads as public park access roads since at least the early to mid 1960s. It cites the explicit dedication in 1982 when Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation signed its first master development agreement with the province.
May 9, 2017, in the provincial election, Christy Clark and the BC Liberals are reduced to a minority government. The "cash for access" imbroglio is a key issue for the electorate that worked against the Liberals.
Spring 2017, Chris Sheppard submits The Evolutionary Paths of Resort Governance: A case study of British Columbia from 1975 to 2015, by Chris Sheppard, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Faculty of Environment, Simon Fraser University, a project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Master of Resource Management (Planning) degree. An informant to the case study remarks, "the people who put the investment in the lifts need to control the land at the bottom." Backcountry Access BC acknowledges that the case study provides a significant number of the entries of this timeline.
May 24, 2017, Mr. David Brownlie, chief operating officer, exits Whistler Blackcomb, now a subsidiary of Vail Resorts. Mr. Brownlie joined Whistler Blackcomb in 1989 as director of finance, rising to chief executive officer in 2012.
June 29, 2017, the BC Liberal government is defeated on a vote of confidence. Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon dissolves the legislature and the NDP under John Horgan to form minority government.
July 2017, Resort Municipality of Whistler implements pay parking in all parking lots with a 24-hour maximum stay. Park visitors staying for two or more nights can only pay for one day and hope their vehicle won't be towed if they stay longer.
July 18, 2017, John Horgan is sworn in as the Premier of British Columbia and the NDP forms the government with the support of the BC Green Party under Andrew Weaver. The NDP promises to take big money out of politics by banning corporate and union donations and banning out-of-province donations.
August 8, 2017, the grassroots advocacy organization Garibaldi Park 2020 appeals to the new Attorney General David Eby to intervene in the alleged public nuisance created by Whistler Blackcomb in the matter of private vehicle use of the Fitzsimmons Creek roads. The organization requests that the Attorney General:
- 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 master development agreements for Whistler Blackcomb that it oversees.
- That Whistler Blackcomb must fully comply with its obligation to provide private vehicle access through its controlled recreation area to the Singing Pass trail head before it can proceed with further mountain development phases or its so-called $345 million Renaissance project.
- That an injunction be placed on further mountain development until the public nuisance is fully abated
August 2017, construction begins on the first Spearhead hut, the 40-bed Claire and Kees hut at Russet Ridge, Singing Pass.
August 31, 2017, Order no. 358 pursuant to Section 56(1) of the Forest and Range Practices Act establishes "Singing Pass Trail" as a recreation trail. Order to Establish Recreation Trails no. 358 The order is not specific as to whether the road on the Whistler Mountain side of Fitzsimmons Creek is part of the recreation trail but it is probably safe to assume so.
September 2017, in a personal conversation with an employee of MacElhanney Surveyors, the Fitzsimmons land slip survey is still ongoing year to year. Movement of the surficial mass is still occuring. Loose glacial deposits are sitting over bedrock. The instability extends for a long way above the road. An opinion was requested if it is feasible to restore the road on the south side of Fitzsimmons Creek on a sustainable basis for a reasonable cost. Indications are that such work would be prohibitively expensive.
September 2017, Rupert Merer of Alpine Club of Canada, Whistler section reports on the state of the Singing Pass road and trail:
The Singing Pass trail continues to deteriorate. I think it is now more difficult than a dry class 3 or class 4 rock climb. It is still advertised on Highway 99 with a Parks sign and the [hiking] guides describe it as a 'green' trail. It is very dangerous. The trail below the Harmony crossing has vanished and the slope on both sides of the creek is eroding badly. The new section of road built by RST [Recreation Sites and Trails BC] lasted less than a month [built in summer, 2016 at a cost of $50,000] and it is now quite difficult to cross the top section. There are large boulders which will soon fall on the trail.
September 21, 2017, Federation of Mountain Clubs announces its Singing Pass parking proposal posted by FMCBC which foresees public access up Fitzsimmons Creek on the Blackcomb side and public parking at the Innergex upstream facility adjacent the park boundary. A new footbridge across Fitzsimmons Creek is proposed to connect with the existing Singing Pass trail on the Whistler side.
October 2017, Recreation Sites and Trails BC commences more work on excavating the road slump on the Singing Pass road. Parties hiking to Singing Pass photograph a mini-excavator and trail works along the road and into the forested area through which the trail runs.