Opposition from the Squamish Nation has killed a proposed gondola along the Sea to Sky Highway near Stawamus Chief Provincial Park.
Proponent Peter Alder of Whistler said on Monday (Oct. 25) that after he received a letter from the Squamish Nation opposing the project, he and his partner Paul Mathews decided to walk away from the plans to put up a gondola in Squamish.
In the letter from Chief Gibby Jacob to Alder and Tom Bell of B.C. Parks, Jacob wrote, "The Squamish Nation Chiefs and Council have considered the material provided to us by the Ministry and the Proponent as well as the information provided to us in the Sept. 28 meeting. We have also discussed this information and the gondola proposal with the Squamish Nation elders. The elders and Chiefs and council are unanimously opposed to the gondola proposals for both the Stawamus Chief and Shannon Falls. Both these areas have great cultural importance to our people and the construction and operation of a gondola on these sites would be highly invasive, intrusive and would desecrate the tranquility and significance of the two areas."
"We tried hard," Alder said. "We looked at other locations but economically it is not feasible and we don't want them coming along two or three years from now to bail us out."
Alder and Mathews had originally proposed the gondola's top station to be located on the second peak of the Stawamus Chief, but changed their plans in the face of opposition from District of Squamish council.
They then looked closely at a knoll to the south of the original top station, on the boundary of Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, as an alternate location. But Alder said that once he received the letter from the Squamish Nation he and Mathews decided the project wasn't worth pursuing.
"If First Nations left a window open we would have made another attempt at it but we learned at Sun Peaks that it isn't easy when the natives aren't supportive," said Alder.
Jacob noted in his letter that Squamish Council voted unanimously to reject the gondola proposal, but in fact District of Squamish Council approved a motion that made it clear that the district endorsed the gondola concept, but not at the location originally proposed by Alder and Mathews.
Jacob concluded his letter by writing, "Since both of the 'key stakeholders' have rejected the gondola proposal, I trust that this matter will not proceed further."
Alder responded to the letter by writing Bill Barisoff, the Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection, to report that he and Mathews were abandoning the gondola project.
Alder wrote in the letter that he believes the application process his project went through was flawed.
"This process involved us obtaining the support of the four stakeholders before we were allowed to commence with the public consultation," Alder wrote. "This was totally out of step and we found that members of your department had to backtrack several times to adjust these procedures."
Meaghan Olesky of a group called Friends of the Chief, which formed to oppose the original gondola proposal, learned on Tuesday (Oct. 26) that the gondola proposal was withdrawn.
"We're just happy that the current park management plan is going to stay as it is," said Olesky. "To their credit, Peter Alder said from the beginning that if the community said they didn't want it, then they wouldn't do it and he stayed true to his word."