Intelligent development vs tactless destruction!

For those of you reading for the first time, I’m a complete hack (just warning you). I’m a climber, scribbler, picture taker, part time rock guide and full time bumbly. I’m in love with the mountains, my girl and orange sunsets, I always climb for fun, I sometimes climb as hard as I possibly can (which is also very fun), I pretend to play soccer, I fake carpentry, I snowboard okay, but I’m a wannabe surfer. If I could have a few skills I lack, it would be the technical right brain thinking of Charles Cole, the commitment of Yvon Chouinard, the forearms and fingers of Chris Sharma, the gargantuan balls of Alex Honnold and the hair of Donald Trump.  You also may want to know that I say things that are on my mind, not necessarily things you may want to read about, so if you don’t want to read about it, try visiting this site instead, it’s very funny….CLICK HERE!

Otherwise, listen up.  Right now this is what’s on my mind, BROHM RIDGE, see this picture and remember it.

In the future, you might be calling it GAS (aka Garibaldi at Squamish).  I’m not against development, please understand that, I’m against dumb and inconsiderate development.  I may be wrong but I feel this is likely one of those cases.   A case for all small mountain towns.  Imagine destroying hundreds of acres of wildlife, only to erect 25 ski lifts, 2 golf courses, 6,000 part-time (mostly out of country I assume) residential units, 100 km of new roads and lets not forget the hotels, the hot tubs, and suspicious message parlors, AND imaging doing all of this while knowing very clearly that WHISTLER/BLACKCOLM lives just 20 minutes down the road, that you would be HEAVILY impacting the local environment and basically making yourself no friends in the process.  Here’s the e-mail that is buzzing around our beloved community, please read it…..

The development encompasses land that’s been identified as prime habitat
for endangered or at-risk species such as peregrine falcon, wolverine,
and marbled murrelet. The GAS area also includes a threatened grizzly
bear population unit that has been designated for recovery by the
province. The project has come under especially intense fire because
of its potential impacts on Brohm River, one of the most productive
salmon and steelhead streams in the province. The development calls
for expansive water management, including sewage and storm water
discharge, irrigation for golf courses and potable water, extractions
of water for snowmaking, and as many as five dams.

WHAT:  Attend the Tuesday, July 7 Squamish council meeting.
WHEN: Tuesday, July 7.
WHERE: Council Chambers, Municipal Hall, 37955 Second Avenue.

*If you can’t attend the July 7 council meeting, please urge
provincial and local officials to reject the GAS ski resort proposal.

Environmental Assessment Office: eaoinfo@gov.bc.ca
Premier Gordon Campbell: premier@gov.bc.ca
West Vancouver – Garibaldi MLA – joan.mcintyre.mla@leg.bc.ca

District of Squamish
Mayor Greg Gardner: ggardner@squamish.ca
Councillor Bryan Raiser: braiser@squamish.ca
Councillor Corinne Lonsdale: clonsdale@squamish.ca
Councillor Doug Race: drace@squamish.ca
Councillor Patricia Heintzman: pheintzman@squamish.ca
Councillor Paul Lalli: plalli@squamish.ca
Councillor Rob Kirkham: rkirkham@squamish.ca

I’m truly torn here, on the one hand, we’re all fucked anyway right, why don’t we just enjoy the ride into the depths of hell and jump on the devils wagon, er I mean, the chair lift and go skiing and use the new roads to access new terrain and great cliffs, it could be fun, and in the end, we may not be able to do anything about it anyway.  I mean shit, honestly, this would be pretty darn good for the value of my house, and jobs for the local economy, but at what COST?   It’s worth putting up the fight.   On the other hand it’s not very sustainable, it’s not very palatable, and it’s not good for our community, it’s a wasteful and damaging project and I would much rather see our council and our attention be brought back to the downtown core, the only true resource that separates us from Whistler and Vancouver, make it clean, pretty and beautiful, focus on THAT and good people will come, I promise, it’s easy peesy.  Now go, or write a letter, whatever you can do to stop the dumb and inconsiderate people from the city stepping over us in their attempt to do the wrong thing for the wrong reasons, and I don’t have to tell you what those reasons are.  Do I????

I think it’s appropriate for me to post a picture I took today at the Canadian Alpine Clubhouse, it creates a wonderful feeling I have about the development in our FRAGILE mountain areas.  The sign before this reads “SLOW”,  but knowing the poor habits of our HUMAN ways, the second one reminds you ever so kindly, I hope you enjoy my attempt at photography…….

That’s all for today,  I’m out.

  • Kerry Brown

    Let me start by saying I’m against GAS in principle. That said I don’t think this is worth all the hyperbole. Yes, we have to be vigilent and follow this to make sure it doesn’t happen. This proposal or something similar has been around for at least 25 years. At one point there were actually chairlift towers in place. Many developers have tried to make this fly. It has never gone anywhere. Why you ask? It’s simply not good downhill skiing terrain. It’s either suck in your gut and go for it because you might not survive double black diamond or so boring even a beginner would be bored after a couple of minutes. This current proposal is so obviously a real estate development and not a ski hill I really can’t see it fooling the town council. They have to go through the process. That doesn’t mean it will get passed at the end of the process. I encourage everyone to make their feelings known but at the same time I wouldn’t worry too much about the development happening anytime soon.

  • supafly

    hey sonnie. ya i’m in two minds about the GAS.. on one hand i think the locals are just being antsy about having their backyard pow taken over by some city snowboard hoodlums, maybe the salmon and grizzly thing are just excuses to keep squamish a local and small town?

    i mean how did places like Boulder,CO develop? they seem to be doing OK whilst still keeping the ski hills. if they didn’t build the ski hill it at garibaldi, where else would they build it? i’m sure EVERYWHERE they try and develop will in some way ruin some grizzly habitat or some salmon crib, and anything that will take away the lift lineups at the gong-show of a whistler is a good thing in my books.

    *shrug* i’m just playing devils advocate here though. just like you i’m sure, i hate seeing wild places torn up, it guess it might be the price we pay..?

  • Sonnie, you’re superb writing skills equal your outstanding climbing skills. And your passion for protecting Squamish is inspiring. Thanks for spreading the word!

    Many of us in Squamish have serious concerns about the GAS resort. Like you, I’m not anti-development. I support development in existing brown space in downtown Squamish, even limited and carefully planned development along Nexen beach. But developers should stay out of sensitive wildlife habitat like the estuary, intact habitat in Valleycliffe and the Highlands, and the area proposed for the GAS development.

    The GAS resort would include: two golf courses, 25 ski lifts, 98 km of roads, hotels, and nearly 6,000 new homes, apartments, and condominiums. Local residents have expressed concern about the GAS project’s impact to current community services and infrastructure. For instance, the GAS plan does not account for fire protection services, hospital beds, school seats, or public transit. Specifically, the proposal states that these services will not be budgeted for in the building of GAS and no will funds be allocated at any time. If the residential portion does not generate enough tax to pay for on-going infrastructure costs, all of Squamish will be held financially responsible. That means our taxes could go up to pay for a developer who walks away with bank. Residents have also complained the resort would jeopardize existing recreational use and curtail current access.

    As you noted, the GAS project is especially troubling because of its potential impacts to Brohm River. Living Rivers BC has called the Brohm a “Crown Jewel” of steelhead production. Grizzly bears, wolves, wolverine, mountain goats, peregrine falcon, and other wildlife could be adversely impacted by the project. Is yet another ski resort in the region worth the cost to our community, wildlife, and environment? I say “no!”

    Again, Sonnie, thanks for shining a light on this.

  • Roger

    Sure this development will affect habitat. Not only animal habitat, but our own. Our environment becomes poluted, our food and water resources become affected. Just remember, the earth WILL survive, even if it means that we don’t. Mother Nature will, sooner or later, spit us all out!

  • marc

    They pulled this crap in Canmore and look what happened there. You have over 60% of housing development uninhabited for 8 months out of the year and energy costs through the roof to upkeep million dollar palaces that no one lives in. Talk about completely destroying a mountain community. And they have the arrogance to brand these development as something that will “build” community and culture, but it does the exact opposite; it jacks up local prices, kills mom and pop shops, brings in wall Marts, raises the price of coffee 10 fold and forces the low income regular joe out of town because he or she can’t afford to feed their family anymore. There is no culture in high class ephemera and money rackets and it’s really sad that Squamish might fall victim to this. In Canmore the city council there was highjacked by big out of town developers who forced their golf courses and palaces in to be developed right in the middle of wildlife corridors. And then you read in the local papers that people are getting mauled by grizzlies and they have “grizzly problems” to deal with!!! It’s insane! Their city council had very prominent local environmentally aware people on it until it became hijacked. Developers did back room deals behind the community’s back without proper public consultations, that’s corrupt. I wonder if this is the same for Squamish? Anyways it’s sickening to see these people get away with it and destroy a community for the sake of jacking up their real estate values and raking in the profits. That’s not about sustainability and putting back in community, it’s about polarizing living standards for the sake of enriching a small elite of buddies. We all pay taxes and the last thing we should do is put up and shut up to people who are there to rip us off and destroy the environment.
    Well I think it’s good that the community is taking action against this. Not everyone has fallen into the catatonic state of apathy and there is hope! Even if this BS goes ahead, at least people will have put up a resistance instead of sitting on their ass watching M.J.’s funeral every night on CNNFOXMSNBC.
    This type of thing goes farther beyond environmental conservation and protecting wildlife. It also affects people’s living standards, the local economy and culture. All for a quick buck.

    “It may be that we have become so feckless as a people that we no longer care how things do work, but only what kind of quick, easy outer impression they give. If so, there is little hope for our cities or probably for much else in our society. But I do not think this is so.”

    — Jane Jacobs, The Death And Life of Great American Cities, 1961

  • sonnie

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts gang, it’s a slippery slope for sure, I think it’s important to have all the information and facts before we can support or oppose it. I don’t think I know enough yet, but I certainly know which way I’m leaning. Oh and by the way, this may be closer to actually happening than people think. Peace out.

  • Nancy

    FIGHT THIS THING WITH EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT, Sonnie!

    Get Patagonia and “Freedom to Roam” behind it! Contact the Sierra Club and their lawyers! STOP THE MADNESS! You, and everyone with a like mind, CAN DO THIS! YOU MUST! You’ve already begun with this post. Don’t let anyone tell you this is a GOOD thing for the local economy, or that there’s nothing you can do about it because the power$ that be hold all the card$. Do all the research you can into the history of this project and all the environmental studies that have been conducted and their results (which it sounds like you already have begun to do), and ORGANIZE! Show the local people, who think they will benefit from this destruction of pristine wilderness, how they will lose out in the long run. Development of this kind is “old” thinking…post-Industrial Age, World War II, Manifest Destiny mentality!

    The reason I can speak to this is that I live in Incline Village, Nevada, on the northeast shore of Lake Tahoe, one of the most beautiful places on the entire frikkin’ planet. I’ve lived here for 23 years (when the population was about 5,000 year-round residents; now, it’s closer to 10,000), and I’ve seen what development has done to this place. Incline Village…known as “Income Village” to many…is exactly what Squamish will become if you allow this development to take place. Incline was a “planned destination resort” by Boise Cascade (the same company that, in 1962, “planned” Lake Arrowhead in SoCal…for a detailed history of the “development” of that place and what you can expect to see in Squamish, see http://www.arrowhead4u.com) with two golf courses, private beaches, a local ski area (currently with only five lifts…small potatoes next to Squaw Valley just 25 minutes away, and Northstar just 15 minutes away, and Heavenly Valley just 30 minutes away…you catchin’ my drift?), a recreation center with an Olympic-sized pool, and community centers (Aspen Grove and The Chateau) for planned events. All this was done years before I moved here to teach high school English, but it was touted to draw “high end” home owners and shoot property values through the roof! Of course, as a property owner (a house I received as part of my divorce settlement…a public school teacher has NO business owning property here; you want a $2500-a-month house payment?), I pay a “recreation” fee that has increased from less than $100 a year to over $800 for “access” to the facilities. That’s ACCESS. I don’t use these facilities AT ALL! Even if I did, I’d still have to pay a “reduced, resident” fee to ski, golf, and recreate…the only thing that’s “free” is use of the private beaches. If we want to commune in the centers, locals have to pay outrageous use fees. The community is full of snobs; it’s not a friendly place to live. I could go on…

    Of course, the worst part of development in the Tahoe Basin is the pollution that has affected the Lake’s clarity. When Mark Twain visited the Lake in 1861, he could see over a hundred feet down to the in-shore bottom…he said that being in a boat on the Lake was like floating in the sky (Roughing It); now, the Lake is losing clarity every year…the deepest we can see is maybe 35 feet…due to algae blooms. The TRPA blames it on everyone but the golf courses’ use of fertilizer…god forbid we should curtail the use of the golf courses; those people pay BIG BUCKS to play. Oh, the TRPA? One would think that the P would stand for Protection, but no, the Tahoe Regional PLANNING Agency stands not for environmental protection but for ways to PLAN development to benefit the economy…real estate agents are the only ones “protected.” Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino mogul, used to be the governor of the Board of Directors and used his influence ($$$) to “develop” the largest piece of Lakefront property on the North Shore along with his buddies, criminal Michael Milken, who was convicted of junkbond trading, and his crony, Warren Trepp, who was incriminated in the fraud, in 1990. I could go on…

    I know it’s hypocritical of me to cry “foul,” seeing as I reside in this town…the old, “shut the gate AFTER I get in”…,and Lake Tahoe is still a beautiful place with every outdoor experience one could ask for, but those activities exist WITHOUT development! I don’t use the facilities I pay for! If I want to get out and enjoy the beauty of this incredible place, there is more than enough natural wilderness with (FREE) swimming, kayaking, canoeing, fly fishing, mountain biking, hiking, backcountry skiing and snowboarding and snowshoeing, and CLIMBING to satisfy even the most hard core enthusiast! No one NEEDS golf courses, private beaches, or planned ski areas. No one.

    As for the local economy, most middle-class and working class families have moved away…it’s too expensive. Our schools are losing enrollment as a result, and, yeah, we’re losing teachers. Local businesses are closing. Tourists are still coming to visit, but not as many as before…I actually had only two people in front of me in line at the grocery store at 6:00PM yesterday…peak summer days…and more folks will be leaving. And, yeah, maybe in another ten years, Tahoe will be on its way back to how it was when the first rugged individuals moved here to enjoy this pristine, natural spectacle. BUT, it will take eons for the Lake to restore itself. Yes, the earth has all the time “in the world” to replenish itself…well after we’ve been “spit out”…but if you can stop the development BEFORE it takes place (and the juggernaut that accompanies it), DO IT! It’s NOT inevitable! YOU CAN DO IT! YES, YOU CAN!

    Any questions? Fire away!

    Let me know if and how I can help.

  • EJ

    Foul, Superfly. You don’t know what you’re talking about wrt Boulder, CO. There are no ski hills or ski resorts here. If anyone proposed somehow putting such a thing in in the foothills, they’d be laughed out of town. Boulder the city and the county both preserve open spaces by buying land and keeping it open and wild. That’s why it’s still beautiful here. That’s why people love living here.

    GAS would be a calamity. End of story.

  • Adam

    Yikes. THis is the kind of thing that really makes me raise an eyebrow. I assume this is in the uber-preliminary stages, but have you heard anything about an environmental impact statement yet? With that density of special status species/distinct population segments in the area, it would seem that there would have to be a number of studies conducted to evaluate the impacts of a large scale resort going into the area. I’m not well versed in the ins and outs of development in Canada, so I’d interested to learn a little more about the order of progression with things like this. I’m not saying I don’t love a good powder day, hell, who hasn’t called in sick on the way to hill, but it seems unreasonable to put further pressure on the populations that inhabit the proposed resort area. Please keep us posted as things develop.

  • Ken

    Not to take away from this fight to stop GAS but it’s looking more and more like the Jumbo Glacier Resort plan to plunk a boutique ski resort into the middle of the Purcell mountains is getting closer to being a done deal. This is another one of those dumb ideas that just won’t go away.

  • Thought I’d report that tonight’s rally outside the Squamish Municipal Hall was a smashing success! I had anticipated about 20-30 people to show up to speak out against the GAS ski resort. Instead, more than 100 people came, most of them climbers, though some members of the Squamish Nation, representatives of the local dirt bikers and snowmobilers associations, and conservation and anlger groups also showed up to voice their concerns about the GAS project. And we got tons of media — CTV and Global TV sent camera crews and reporters who stayed for the entire rally and taped the portion of the council meeting about GAS. Mountain FM and the Chief newspaper came as well. Canadian Press and CBC also did stories. And tomorrow CBC (French) and Vancouver’s 1410 talk radio station will air stories. The Squamish council was clearly impressed with the turnout and a bit surprised, I think, that two Vancouver-based television crews were there to cover their council meeting.

    Squamish is coming together to fight for our beloved community!

  • supafly

    a quick question.. hypothetically, if there was to be a new ski hill, where should it go?

    and i know you might say “no more ski hills we have enough already” but.. for my sake, where would you put it?

  • sonnie

    Brian, thanks for the update buddy, nice work, so good to hear mate, so good to hear.

    Supafly, Why do you ask? Are you looking to buy some real estate somewhere?

  • Fazli

    Sonnie,

    First of all, i would say what a superb writing skills and words u have and every single words inspired me to try things that i never thought possible before and the passion that u have for something that u love such as Squamish…

    Although i never been to Canada before, i`m very sure that u guys have a lot of beautiful place and mountains that`s too precious to be trimmed down for any kind of construction or unnecessary development.. I`ll have the same feeling and would do the same thing if some dollar slave want to destroy what i love the most just to fulfill their own greed and using ‘development’ as a cover up.. I`m sure Squamish meant ‘life’ for u and all the local community and for that i would say don`t give up protecting something that we love Sonnie..

    Hope you can keep us update with what happen in Squamish and you will always have our support from Climbing Community in Malaysia

  • supafly

    sonnie you know as a matter of fact.. 🙂

    the veiled question for me here is, if this is in fact not a fight against development in general, but just this specific area – then where would a development like this be welcomed? what makes the GAS so different from any other ski hill development? i mean no matter where ski hills develop, there will always be an effect to the environment.

    like i said, i’m not necessarily for or against, i’m just wondering if the opponents are against all developments and if not then, where would they put it?

  • supafly

    oh and on another note.. who in their right mind came up with an acronym like GAS.. i mean geez guys, GAS?! just asking for trouble hehe.

  • Hey Sonnie, thanks for the kind words. We’ve been generating a lot of media about GAS. Got some great coverage on CTV. You can watch the segment at http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20090708/BC_squamish_ski_protest_090708/20090708?hub=BritishColumbiaHome

    There will a lot more media over the coming weeks. Stayed tuned.

  • VicEA

    As a response to Supafly, sometimes it’s not a question of whether there is a more suitable alternative location for the development. Sometimes it’s just plain wrong for the area and community. The best Squamish example I can think of: one of the primary reasons the Chief is now a Provincial Park was the ill conceived and universally despised proposal that was floated to Council some years ago to bolt a gondola onto the side of the Chief and charge people for the privelege of avoiding one of the best hikes in BC. There wasn’t, and there still isn’t, a ‘better’ place for that project, and there isn’t really a ‘better’ place for Garibaldi at Squamish to be sited either. Too big, too damaging, too expensive and not necessary.

    I’m also not blanket anti-development; Hell, my JOB is to help clients navigate their way through all the legislation and environmental permitting processes required to move new developments ahead. But, as Sonnie alluded to in the thread, there is a big difference between remediating and redeveloping brownfields in the town core (smart development, of most benfit to the local community) and irreversibly altering/damaging relatively pristine and much more fragile alpine terrain and supporting ecosystems for ultimately individual, rather than commmunity benefit.

    I am an Environmental Assessment specialist, but not every project I’m asked to work on is one that I can support, either professionally or personally. I have serious concerns over the environmental impacts of this development on the area, especially in terms of it’s effect on water resources, habitat and the long-term effects on the community that so many people world-wide have grown to love and feel a part of. I also feel that the potential for cumulative impacts with other ongoing projects (2010 upgrades, for example) has been underestimated. Growth in the valley will continue, and this planned development would place a tremendous load on local resources making it almost impossible for Squamish council to maintain a balanced, healthy, sustainable community. All the cash flow in the world can’t replace naturally functioning ecosystems once they’ve been so heavily modified.

    I am not a full-time resident of Squamish, and I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as yet another non-resident trying to tell the community what to do and how to do it. Having said that, I’m encouraged to hear that so many people showed up to voice their opinion to Council. In the interests of providing more info to anyone who wants it, I’ve posted the link to the latest Environmental Assessment application for the GAS project. It can be found at the BC Environmental Assessment Office website:

    http://a100.gov.bc.ca/appsdata/epic/html/deploy/epic_project_home_286.html

    It is currently listed as “under review” so, no environmental assessment certificate (approval) has been issued for this project by the Province yet. Yet. Take a read through, look carefully at the maps and then carefully consider if the development as planned would really be a net benefit for the community, no matter where it might be sited.

  • john cocktosin

    Didn’t you recently mention buying a townhouse? Is that intelligent development?

  • Sonnie

    Oh man, ya I did mention that, crap, you totally got me. I’m pegged. How embarrassing. I never said I wuz smrt John. The townhouse you’re referring to is nearly 40 years old, in downtown Squamish, next to the railroad tracks and the High-school, we bought it because it wasn’t a new unit, it was affordable and it leaves a smaller footprint than most detached homes, does that make any difference? Probably not.

    Nobody’s perfect Mr.Cocktosin, especially me (thanks for pointing that out) but consider that three people live in our very modest home full time, all year round, we walk to work, we walk to the market, we even own businesses here and we try as hard as we can to support our neighbors and localization in general. Building 6000 part time residential units/vacation homes in an extremely sensitive and water deprived area 15 minutes commute from any village center (via the Landrover) can only cause more harm than good I recon, would you disagree? Especially when you have to dodge starving bears and cougars and golf courses. Perhaps in time this will appear to make sense, but for now, GAS doesn’t seem viable for this specific part of the world, it’s an unrealistic and unsustainable proposition. I feel that this PARTICULAR project is extremely unintelligent, yes. But thanks for taking your time to turn this around and point your finger at me John, do you have any other thoughts about Brohm Ridge? Please share…

  • Charlie

    As long as the community continues to voice their opposition to GAS, it will not make it past Council – Red Point Development is a prime example of this. Besides, another Whistler type development only 30 to 40 min from Whistler is not sustainable, practical, or needed in these economic times.

    As I understand it, the road up to the proposed ski area will likely cost upwards of $10,000,000 and that number was quoted to me in 1990’s era money – much higher these days. The engineering involved with a development of this magnitude will likely sink the ship before it leaves the dock; and as an engineer I do not want anything to do with this ship in my backyard – wrong place, wrong time.

    Sonnie, good on you for setting down roots in a sustainable way. I too recently bought a townhouse in Brackendale and now have scrapped my car (literally throught the BC Scrapit program) and ride a mountain bike around town. Keep up the great work!

  • supafly

    personally i’d be more worried about the high rise towers they want to erect downtown..

  • Sonnie

    Good call, supa! Honestly though, I think they’re both equally worrisome, there is no stopping development here, okay, but we can try to slow it down a wee bit and learn from other towns and cities that have already made some of the mistakes Squamish might make. If we don’t voice our opinions, who will? If we leave it up to City Council and the Developers to make all the decisions, this may become a place we don’t want to live anymore. 99 percent is just showing up. right?