A plan to put a billboard near the base of an iconic climbing destination on the Sea-to-Sky Highway north of Vancouver is upsetting Squamish, B.C., residents and environmentalists.
The Squamish First Nation wants to erect the three-metre by 11-metre billboard on reserve land on the western side of Highway 99 near the base of the Stawamus Chief, as part of a casino and gas station development just outside of the town of Squamish.
Ana Santos, the Squamish co-ordinator with the Climate Action Network, is concerned the sign will mar the natural beauty of the 700-metre high granite cliff, which is an internationally known climbing and hiking destination.
"The Sea-to-Sky Highway is particularly scenic, on one side is the sea and on the other is the Chief and the mountains, and that type of fixture really ruins it all," said Santos.
But Toby Baker, a director with the Squamish First Nation, points out the highway already cuts through their reserve and they're simply trying to maximize their land's potential.
"If you're going to make a case that a sign adjacent to a highway is ugly, but a highway that intersects what was traditional land, and is now reserve land of a First Nation community — it's pretty hard to defend things like a road and suggest it is not a problem and a sign is," said Baker.
The sign could bring in more than $150,000 a year for the band and a deal should be finalized in the next few weeks, said Baker.
A similar proposal put forth by the Squamish First Nation two years ago to build a number of billboards on reserve land near several major bridges in Vancouver met with widespread public opposition. Those billboards were never erected.