Whistler’s Answers: July 22, 1982

In the 1980s the Whistler Question began posing a question to three to six people and publishing their responses under “Whistler’s Answers” (not to be confused with the Whistler Answer).  Each week, we’ll be sharing one question and the answers given back in 1982.  Please note, all names/answers/occupations/neighbourhoods represent information given to the Question at the time of publishing and do not necessarily reflect the person today.

Some context for this week’s question: The Delta Mountain Inn (today the Hilton) opened in Whistler on July 23, 1982. It was the first “big” hotel built in the Whistler Village and opened during financially unstable times, both in the resort and nationally. Find out more about the Delta here.

Question: How do you think the opening of Delta Mountain Inn will affect Whistler?

Lance Fletcher – Co-owner of Stoney’s Fitzsimmons Building

I think it will be terrific. It will open things up for us. Initially it may hurt our business a bit, but ultimately it will be terrific.

It will provide convention facilities Whistler doesn’t have now.

Having a quality, full-service hotel is bound to attract business for the entire valley.

Keith Inkster – Manager Blackcomb Lodge – Blackcomb Lodge

It will enhance the image of the community through its professional approach to service, national marketing and skilled management.

The formal training and strict staff guidelines might well require an adjustment to the laid-back approach taken by most other hospitality industry staff at Whistler.

But all the professionalism will not make up for the friendliness and honest hospitality which is part of Whistler now.

Don Beverley – Public Servant – Alpine Meadows

It’s definitely good for Whistler and the surrounding area. While Delta is promoting their hotel, they’re promoting our area at the same time.

I can’t see how it can be a bad thing. Delta will be one more employer helping relieve unemployment lines.

The village that ceased to exist (part 1)

Since the day of the mandatory evacuation order in 1980, the removal of the Garibaldi Townsite has been shrouded in controversy. A small but growing community was urgently ordered to leave their town, and the fight that ensued made headlines for years. During the evacuation, tensions ran high, motives were questioned, and a variety of theories (some more feasible than others) were put forward.

At the center of the controversy is the Barrier, a 500 meter rockface that dams the Garibaldi lakes. As early as the 1850’s there were concerns about its stability. Indigenous oral histories document a destructive landslide in 1855 that resulted from a slab of rock falling from the Barrier. Later that decade William Downie, a surveyor sent to the region by the Hudson’s Bay Company, noted in his diary that the land beneath the Barrier had been ruined, and voiced concern over its stability. It took over a century for something to come of these accounts, and in the meantime the area continued to be developed.

In the 1970s, the Department of Highways commissioned a study to determine the stability of the Barrier. The subsequent report by the Garibaldi Advisory Panel (also known as the Barrier Report) was completed in May 1978. It claimed the risk of another slide was relatively low, but, if one were to happen the results could be catastrophic. It recommended that “concentrated development” be limited in certain regions, but said nothing about evacuating existing communities.

Even after the risk had been established, the report lay dormant in Victoria for two years. During those years, the residents of Garibaldi built a new firehall, repaired the schoolhouse, and cleared space for a playground. What happened next came as a complete shock to the growing community.

In May 1980, an Order in Council was issued that declared Garibaldi a civil-defense zone ad prohibited “development, construction, excavation, or alteration” of any land in the implicated area. This meant that residents became tenants on their property, and that they had to choose between selling to the government and living on land that they could no longer alter.

Sign posted outside Garibaldi Townsite. Whistler Question Collection.

There are many theories about why the evacuation happened when it did, and in order to begin to understand those theories, it is helpful to know what was there before the evacuation. Garibaldi Townsite began as the Garibaldi Station, and was one of the many communities that owed its origins to the expansion the railroad.

Built in 1922, Alpine Lodge was the second lodge built at the Townsite. Whistler Question Collection.

At first, it followed a similar trajectory to Alta Lake. Development began in the early twentieth century and picked up in the late 1940s when families who were unable to find accommodation in Vancouver were drawn to the valley (back then Vancouverites often lined up outside newspaper offices to get an early look at rental listings). For some time, Garibaldi had a larger year-round population than Alta Lake, and one Garibaldi resident, after having spent the winter of 1946 working in Alta Lake, described it as a “terrible place” that was “ten times as desolate as Garibaldi.” By 1960, there were just over 60 full time residents (with up to twice as many on weekends), and the town had its own campground, post office, firehall, and store. By 1980, when the order was issued, Garibaldi was well on its way to being an established community and tourist destination.

Members of the “Alive Club” pose outside the Alpine Lodge for a photo in 1979. Forbes Collection.

Next week’s article will cover the many conflicting theories about why the evacuation happened when it did, and will detail what happened to the residents after they were forced to leave.

Keely Collins is one of two summer students working at the Whistler Museum this year through the Young Canada Works Program. She will be returning to the University of Victoria in the fall.

Whistler’s Answers: July 15, 1982

In the 1980s the Whistler Question began posing a question to three to six people and publishing their responses under “Whistler’s Answers” (not to be confused with the Whistler Answer).  Each week, we’ll be sharing one question and the answers given back in 1982.  Please note, all names/answers/occupations/neighbourhoods represent information given to the Question at the time of publishing and do not necessarily reflect the person today.

Some context for this week’s question: Whistler was just beginning to market itself as a summer destination in the early 1980s. The Whistler Village was still under construction and only a small number of businesses were fully operating.

Question: What were the things that impressed you the most, and the least, during your visit to Whistler?

Ash Dhanani – Sales Rep – Burnaby

The architecture here – the way the whole thing has been done is really very nice. I’ve been coming up for 10 years and it’s one of the nicest places around.

But you need more activities here. You can’t sit in a restaurant all day. Maybe there’s a communication problem in telling visitors what’s available.

My friends in Vancouver say it’s really nice here, but needs some rounding out.

Jean Doench – Teacher – Toronto

I think the camaraderie and friendliness is very apparent. The town has a laid-back atmosphere, but it’s still productive. Architecturally, it’s like a jewel in the mountains.

The one basic weakness I’ve found is that the involved personnel tend to talk about economic failure. There is a worry about what’s happening here, and I think it’s unwarranted, it just doesn’t fit.

One thing that is terrible is the hum of fans in the square.

Ellen Hodge – Federal Government Employee – Port Coquitlam

I think the nicest thing is the appearance of the buildings, plus the beautiful scenery. I especially liked the Village Square which has a feeling much like the little towns in the Laurentians.

But I thought there would be more – more shops, more streets, more of a village. I guess it’s because it’s so new here. I imagine there will be more, it will just take a couple of years.

Building Meadow Park

In 1980, while Blackcomb Mountain was preparing to open and the Town Centre was still in early stages of construction, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) was putting together a plan to build parks throughout Whistler. The Outdoor Recreation Plan they proposed suggested plans for lakeside parks, such as today’s Lost Lake Park, Wayside Park, and Alpha Lake Park, as well as calling for smaller parks within subdivisions. In Alpine Meadows, the plan proposed a park with a playground, softball field, open play area, nature area, bikeway terminus, and parking with highway access. Over the 1980s, this suggestion of a park would become Meadow Park.

Municipal trail crews cut through the brush to make the final connection between the Alpine Meadows trail and Meadow Park trail (under construction). Paving to complete the trail system will begin at the end of July. Whistler Question Collection, June 1983.

Work on Meadow Park began in the early 1980s with the building up of 11 acres of marsh. By September 1983, though still a work-in-progress, Meadow Park was connected to the Whistler Village by an early section of the Valley Trail and tennis courts had been installed. Despite this progress, the park was still a long way from finished. In May 1984, a feature article in the Whistler Question described the area as “a sorry sight,” with skunk cabbage where other parks boasted daffodils and a brown patch in place of a playing field. By the River of Golden Dreams, however, a grassy picnic site featured panoramic views of mountains.

Over the summer of 1984, the brown patch would be seeded and transformed into a field complete with baseball diamond and backstop, the Valley Trail would be paved and extended to the highway, and a playground would be installed near the tennis courts. According to Parks Planner Tom Barratt, the RMOW’s plan with these facilities was “to make the park as much a community park as it is a local, subdivision park.”

Meadow Park mom’s gathered on a Tuesday afternoon. The pre-nap strategy: “Get them out and let them run wild.” Whistler Question Collection, 1993.

The next major addition to Meadow Park was made in 1988 with the installation of the water park. The water park was partially funded by a grant from BC Lotteries and was built by L.A. Systems, who had just finished installing a similar park in Horseshoe Bay. According to municipal parks director Bill Barratt, the water park would offer a safer alternative to lakes for small children during hot weather.

The water park was completed by August 1988, featuring water cannons, sprinklers, geyser, water slide, and “a fish that blows wherever the wind does.” A community event, referred to by some as the “Big Splash,” was put together by the Alta Lake Community Club to celebrate the water park’s opening. Dandelion Daycare sponsored a bicycle-decorating contest, the Rotary Club provided ice cream, the Lions Club brought hot dogs and drinks, and local businesses provided prizes. Children and parents “flocked” to the new facility.

The water park being well used during the summer months. Whistler Question Collection, 1995.

The water park continued to be well used by residents and visitors alike and Meadow Park was soon established as a neighbourhood park. In a 2016 post for the Whistler Insider (the blog hosted by whistler.com) author Feet Banks wrote that, “The water park was an integral part of childhood for Whistler kids who licked in the north end of town. With no public transit, this was the closest cool-down option and we made almost daily pilgrimages to splash down the slide, run the spray tunnel, refresh and play Frisbee on the massive grass fields.”

The Valley Trail system has been extended and public transit introduced making it easier to access other parks and lakes, but Meadow Park continues to be a popular park for those who live in Alpine Meadows and many others. Picnickers can still be found next to the River of Golden Dreams and, especially when the temperatures rise, children and adults alike can be seen splashing in the water park.