As the provincial government in British Columbia is getting prepared to go back to work a local question that has been waiting almost two decades may have the chance to finally get a final answer.
As Liberal leadership contenders came through the Columbia Valley one question that was brought up to them was how they felt about the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort.
MLA George Abbott said that people had been waiting a long time for a decision and that he would support the project.
This was no surprise to Jumbo Glacier Resort Ltd. VP Grant Costello.
“It should be no surprise that cabinet members and caucus support this project. After all, the B.C. Liberals are the free enterprise party here and one of the objectives of this government as communicated by Premier Gordon Campbell has been to double tourist beds by 2015. Jumbo Glacier Resort is just one of the resorts that will provide these beds,” Costello said.
This feeling was not felt by District of Invermere Councillor Bob Campsall who has openly spoken against the project in the past.
“I didn’t really think he answered on knowledge, more on the process. His response was not based on knowledge of the project. If you were to ask him about the grizzly bear report, the avalanche report, he would not know,” Campsall said.
A recent article by Bruce Kirkby found on the the Globe and Mail website has also caused another spark of interest about the potential of a resort.
At the end of his article Kirkby said, “I hope British Columbia’s new Premier will be able to see through the confusion and protect the province’s wild inheritance.”
This is an opinion that Campsall agrees with.
“I found it was extremely well-balanced. It was written by someone who may have wanted the development, but then saw it from the environmental perspective. He saw the beauty of it, and didn’t want it gone…I’ve always said that Jumbo resort would have been a bad idea. It’s an out-of-date project, ‘yesterday’s project by yesterday’s men’ so to speak.”
Costello does not see the piece in the same light as the Invermere councillor.
“I thought it was a great piece of propaganda. It was no coincidence that the full article appeared on Wildsight’s website the day before it was published in the Saturday Globe and Mail,” he said.
Costello also explained what he felt were some of the misconceptions about the resort that are currently out in the public.
“That the success of Jumbo will have a negative effect on ski areas in the region. Alta and Snowbird in the Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah and Whistler Blackcomb at Alta Lake in British Columbia provide evidence that clustering ski resorts in areas of plentiful snow is a successful formula. There is only one other place in North America where two 4000’+ vertical ski resorts like Panorama and Jumbo are in sight of each other; Whistler Blackcomb. Once Jumbo opens, the Powder Highway will expand to include four 4,000’+ vertical mountains within a half day of each other; Jumbo, Panorama, Kicking Horse and Revelstoke. This is a formula for regional success unmatched anywhere in North America,” he said.
Another point made by Costello was what the group has done to make sure the environmental impact passes all of the regulations put forward to the resort group.
“Of the several hundred conditions and commitments attached to the Environmental Certificate many have been completed already. Those remaining are classified as pre-construction and operating. The most important pre-construction commitments are baseline wildlife studies which will be done in 2011 and 2012. Included are further more detailed grizzly studies which will provide information on the type and level of mitigation options that will be incorporated into the grizzly bear management plan. Once all conditions/commitments have been satisfied, there will be a myriad of permits and licenses we will need to apply for and receive before construction start scheduled for 2013. This timetable relies on the timely delivery of the Mountain Resort Municipality governance model from the Province following the signing of the Master Development Agreement.”
He went on to say that, “The problem that arises in the case of Jumbo Glacier Resort is that the policy has not been followed and at times along the way there has been political interference, political foot dragging, and breech of trust. Glacier Resorts Ltd. this week filed a substantial complaint with the British Columbia Ombudsman.”
Campsall explained that in his opinion that growth can be a positive or in some cases a negative part of life.
“There’s good development, because we always need growth. It’s good for the economy. But there is such a thing as ‘bad’ development. The taxpayers would have to fund the mountain road, the avalanche control…for Jumbo. There haven’t been enough studies done of the glaciers in the area. There are good aspects of anything, but when the bad aspects outweigh the good, it’s time to take a second look.”
Costello explained that he has been concerned about the environmental aspects of what he is doing and this concern for the environment started when he was younger.
“In my youth I was an early member of Greenpeace and fought destructive forestry practices in the Kootenays from my log cabin on Settlers Road. But like Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace, I have moved away from a radicalized environmentalism heavily influenced and funded by American trust fund ideologues. Bear in mind there are real environmental concerns at Jumbo, which were addressed during the nine year quasi-judicial environmental review, and there are the issues which continue to be brought forward by a small cadre of environmentalist activists. Environmentalism today is a mix of politics and religion. No project will ever be built which meets their faith based demands. We have an opportunity now to build the most environmentally sustainable resort in the world, within the framework of the environmental certificate, the Master Plan and the Master Development Agreement using all of the advanced technologies and building techniques now available. Ski resorts are one of the best uses of our mountains and valleys – just look how well they blend into their settings. They have their ups and downs depending on snow pack and the economy but year after year, the bull wheels turn and the jobs keep coming. The ski hill outside of Ottawa where I learned to ski and race as a ten year old is still running and providing jobs nearly 60 years later. How better to use a few hundred acres of hillside land?”
As for Campsall he sees a final decision as being a chance for the government to put the environment first.
“”There is so much wrong with the Jumbo proposal. Environmentally, it’s a disaster. Socially, economically… I don’t think they’ll allow it to go through. The decision has almost been made for them… Clearly the government is not unaware of climate change, and I don’t think there’s any government that doesn’t know what’s going on with ski resort economics and glaciers melting.