Editor’s note: This letter is a shortened version of one sent to the District of Squamish council and copied to The Chief.
Water cascades off the canyon walls from under the thick green and brown carpet of the forest floor. A thin fog hangs in the air, adding an ethereal feel to the powerful 70-foot waterfall upstream.
You’re standing on a serene, volunteer-built and maintained viewing platform, hardly believing that such beauty exists within the bounds of our municipality. But you’re distracted because not far above you, there’s a boardwalk. Two friends are encouraging each other while they take selfies and discuss Instagram hashtags. Another group waits impatiently to take pictures in the same spot. Meanwhile, a guide is giving a presentation to a tour group. The trailhead parking where you used to see a dog walker, a kayaker, or maybe a dirt biker — and usually not all three on the same day — is now a concession stand with cars lining the approaching road for hundreds of meters, and the free public trail you used to take to view the upper falls is now pay-access-only.
Please ask Squamish Council to not rezone this area. Mamquam Falls and the surrounding canyon are an incredible treasure held dear by our community and should not be for sale, let alone given away in exchange for nothing. The provincial government may have approved this project from an office in the city, but council doesn’t have to, and it’s the District’s mandate to think about what this business would bring to our community — and what it would take away. Make the decision based on that.
Crowds don’t manifest in place. They may or may not come to Mamquam Falls in the coming years, and if they do, we’ll have to deal with it as a community. But this project guarantees that they will come because its success depends on a concerted marketing campaign (that’s already begun) designed to bring them there. Many local residents across all walks of life value this area. Squamish Canyon takes away — or at least, fundamentally alters — this community resource, extracting money from it and returning little or nothing to the community.
Please note, I worked with local non-profit BC Whitewater to secure the access points for kayakers within this tenure. BC Whitewater has no position on the project beyond maintaining public kayak access. These views are mine as a resident of Squamish and do not represent the views of BC Whitewater.