LONG RANGE PLANS SHORTSIGHTED?
Environmental groups are taking issue with some of the finer points of Marmot Basin’s recently approved Long Range Plans (LRPs).
The Jasper Environmental Association says that the lack of an integrated mass transit system should preclude Marmot Basin from going ahead with plans to expand the ski hill’s parking lots. Furthermore, the JEA says a reduction in Marmot’s leasehold is linguistic sleight-of-hand which doesn’t represent a significant conservation gain at all.
“Parks Canada has said no to development there since 1981, all they have to do is continue saying no,” said the JEA’s Jill Seaton.
One of the cornerstones of the LRP is a 118 hectare “voluntary reduction” in Marmot Basin’s leasehold. The lands are located on the northern border of Marmot Basin’s lease, in the Whistler’s Creek valley. That this reduction is being called a “significant conservation gain” by Parks Canada is insincere; according to Seaton, Parks Canada will always have the final say.
“This is land that’s always been protected—there’s no environmental gain at all,” Seaton said.
On June 5, Yellowhead MP, Conservative Jim Eglinski, announced the approval of Marmot Basin’s Long Range Plans. The document is the culmination of more than 10 years of working with Parks Canada and other ski hills in national parks to draft ski hill management guidelines, then honing Marmot Basin’s site-specific guidelines. The new LRPs identify increased snow making capacity, glading, improvements to the lower (Caribou) chalet and expansions to the parking lots as projects to be completed in the near future.
“As the cornerstone of winter tourism in Jasper National Park, the four projects contained in our first Long Range Plan will provide significant benefits to the town of Jasper as well as tourism operators in Jasper and the surrounding region,” Marmot Basin president Dave Gibson said in a statement.
Seaton pointed to a 2008 Strategic Environmental Assessment which indicated that, as spelled out in the ski hill’s site guidelines, “an integrated mass transportation strategy is required before parking lot expansion can occur.”
Speaking to The Jasper Local, JNP Superintendent Greg Fenton noted that Marmot Basin has ”done a little bit of that with their bus services from town,” however, Seaton said the strategy is far from articulated.
“The strategy seems to be to put [an integrated mass transit system] off until the next Long Range Plan,” Seaton said.
Marmot Basin will in all likelihood put forward a new LRP in the coming years. In the 2008 site guidelines, Marmot identified a number of other aspirations for the ski hill, including an extension of the Knob Chairlift to the summit of Marmot Mountain and two lifts in the Outer Limits/Trés Hombres area adjacent to Whistlers’ Creek. Marmot Basin’s advancement of those proposals can only be done via a new LRP; furthermore, Parks Canada’s consideration of both projects will be influenced by the now-completed studies of goat and caribou populations, (data from either study has not yet been released).
In the meantime, Marmot Basin will concentrate on its current suite of green-lighted projects. Fenton called the approval of the Long Range Plans a significant achievement.
“They outline improvements for ski hill operations and visitor experience but also lay out tangible measures for contributing to the maintenance of ecological integrity,” he said.