A proposal to build a ski resort in the backcountry between New Denver and Kaslo has generated more than 3,000 comments from the public, a new government report says.
The provincial government’s Mountain Resorts Branch (MRB) has released its What We Heard document, summarizing the comments, concerns, questions and suggestions received on the Zincton Ski Resort project, first announced last spring.
The comments were made during the month-long public feedback period on the ski resort project, and compiled by the Zincton Project Review Team in the MRB, a department of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
“The input received will ensure that all values and expressed interests are considered in project planning, process review steps and decision-making,” says a summary from the MRB.
The department says it received 3,392 letters, emails, and phone calls during the comment period last May-June.
The comments are wide ranging, covering issues such as economic development, wildlife, water, public access to lands, and the dangers presented by abandoned mines in the area.
The MRB does not indicate how many letters received were for, against, or neutral on the project.
Some respondents said they regard the proposal as balanced, and feel the project takes into consideration sustainability of the area and environment while providing the opportunity to enhance or improve social and economic conditions locally and in the region.
However, the MRB said others felt that the “proposed project development area is too large,” “will result in environmental degradation” and asked questions on the need for the project and market saturation. “The area should be left for locals and free of motorized public access to backcountry,” says one of the comments in the report.
Public access concerns
MRB notes in the report that the area surrounding Highway 31A between New Denver and Kaslo has been experiencing steady growth in public and commercial, motorized and non-motorized recreational activities.
Some people were in favour of more accessibility to the area, noting that the lift access proposed at Zincton would allow more people to enjoy backcountry recreation.
However, the MRB says “many” respondents expressed concern with the possibility of “losing” access to land that is currently regarded as an area with easy and free public access to backcountry recreation (skiing, mountain biking, hiking, snowmobiling); specifically, for London and Whitewater Ridge.
Impacts on local community and economy
The report says MRB heard from some people that the area and region is going through a period of economic and social transition, which will see the tourism sector play a much larger role in diversifying the region’s economy.
Some people felt the Zincton project could play a beneficial role in this transition, bringing employment opportunities, new businesses, and more visitors to the region.
However, others felt that only a few people would benefit financially from the project, while the general public would get low-wage jobs, and have to put up with greater strains on resources.
“The proposed development will put additional pressure on already scarce resources and services (e.g. it will create housing crisis, grocery and gas shortages due to influx of visitors),” was one comment.
Commenters also raised issues like the probable increase of human-wildlife encounters, an increase in traffic accidents, more work for search and rescue and other emergency services, and protection of drinking water.
More study called for
The MRB says people wanted environmental concerns addressed through an environmental assessment, detailed species surveys, and a wildlife management plan.
There were also a wide variety of safety concerns, including the area’s frequent avalanches, abandoned mine shafts, and increased possibility of human-caused wildfires.
“We also heard, due to heightened tourism sector interests expressed through multiple applications for land use in the Highway 31A corridor, that cumulative effects/ land use planning should be a part of the planning and permitting process and considered in decision making,” MRB says in the report.
The final decision on Zincton may not come for quite some time. MRB will now determine the feasibility of the project based on all comments received and through the identification of any land use conflicts.
If the Expression of Interest is found to be feasible, the proponent will be invited to submit a formal proposal. If accepted, the ministry would initiate a more intensive and detailed review and planning process.
MRB says it will continue to engage with Indigenous peoples, communities and stakeholders to understand their interests and how they may be impacted by this proposal.
The proponents say they hope to have the project started by 2022, building the ski village and associated structures over the following eight years.
Built on a bench with 12,000 acres of skiable area, the project is bigger than Whistler and Blackcomb combined, the company’s Expression of interest (EOI) says. It notes a 2,133-metre difference from the parking lot to the peak of Whitewater, with terrain of varying difficulty. The area gets up to 18 metres of snow in winter.
The project would produce more than 200 local jobs and a $20-million annual payroll in the region, according to the EOI. Resort users would take a gondola to a mountain village designed to be walkable and eco-friendly. The village will have private cabins, B&Bs and bunkhouses – but no hotels or condos. It won’t have a day lodge, but rather a developed commercial area with restaurants, bars, spas, general store, and other resort-related business.
– Valley Voice