Sea To Sky Gondola causes controversy in Squamish, B.C.
Critics say development doesn't belong in Stawamus Chief Provincial Park
Developers of a new gondola line set to open near Squamish, B.C. next May are being criticized for building the tourist attraction through Stawamus Chief Provincial Park.
The Sea To Sky Gondola will allow tourists to avoid hiking up the mountain, instead transporting them via passenger lift to a point 850 metres above Howe Sound on a route between Shannon Falls and the Stawamus Chief granite cliffs.
Jayson Faulkner, general manager of the project, said the $22-million project is more than just a gondola.
"The profile that it creates is absolutely going to have positive benefits for Squamish generally as a tourism destination," said Faulkner.
The project also includes a café, several hiking and biking trails, a 9,000-square-foot lodge and a suspension bridge the length of a football field.
"As we spent more time — dig deeper, more bushwhacking — we found the amenity potential was even better than we thought."
But the project, launched in 2011, has come under fire from environmentalists, who don't think the gondola and the new structures should have been built in the heart of a provincial park.
The developers say they have done over a hundred public meetings, but the review process was run by the owners of the development.
Gwen Barlee, with the Wilderness Committee believes there are other areas the developers could have gone.
"You are always going to have development pressures on our parks. I wish the government had held firm, at the very least that they'd had a really meaningful public consultation process," said Barlee.
Even in the face of opposition, Faulkner is optimistic the project will make Squamish more than just a halfway point between Vancouver and Whistler.
"Squamish has always struggled because it hasn't been able to establish the infrastructure and the combination of infrastructure that gives people reason to stop here," he said.
Prices for all the amenities of the Sea To Sky Gondola have not yet been released.
With file from the CBC's Richard Zussman