Tag Archives: Arthur De Jong

Speaker Series – Whistler’s Mountain Identity

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Historians often obsess over the delineation of historical eras. Paleolithic or Neolithic? When, precisely, did the Renaissance begin? And when did we enter a post-modern world? Thankfully for us at the Whistler Museum, classifying our community’s history is fairly straightforward.

While First Nations and, much later, trapper and prospector types, have long occupied the region, the start of the community now known as Whistler began as a dream in 1911 when Alex & Myrtle Philip first visited Alta Lake. Rainbow Lodge’s construction 3 years later is a concrete starting point for our community.

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The inspiring Coast Mountain environment was a key tourist draw from the first days of Rainbow Lodge.

Alta Lake remained a quaint summer tourism resort for nearly 50 years until new dreams were forged at the 1960 Winter Olympics. The opening of Whistler Mountain in 1966 opened a new era of Olympic dreams and ascendancy as a modern ski resort. The Olympic Dream was realized in 2010 and Whistler Mountain celebrated its 50th last winter with our spot among the world’s top mountain resorts firmly established.

And so, one could argue, Whistler has entered its third 50-year period. Where do we go from here? We are experiencing a period of rapid growth and change. Buzzwords like economic diversification, weather-proofing, and cultural tourism dominate as we navigate substantial growing pains and external pressures.

The mountains are not going anywhere, but how will our relationship with them evolve in the future? Jeff Slack photo.

The mountains are not going anywhere, but how will our relationship with them evolve in the future? Jeff Slack photo.

How will we come to define this next era? Will we stay true to our mountain roots? Will we chart a completely new course? Can we do both at the same time? Does life in the mountains come with any special responsibilities?

In case it was not already clear, we have been in a reflective mood of late. Our next Speaker Series event is designed to discuss, if not answer, some of these broad questions that are floating around in our heads. On Wednesday, January 18th, we will be hosting a community dialogue on “Whistler’s Mountain Identity.” We hope you can join us and contribute to this discussion.

The event format is simple. Two esteemed panelists, Arthur De Jong (Whistler Blackcomb’s Mountain Planning & Environmental Resource Manager) and Michel Beaudry (writer and mountain adventurist) will open the evening with their visions for the past, present, and future of Whistler’s identity as a mountain town. This will then lead into an audience-informed, moderated discussion of the many broad themes relevant to this topic.

As always, everyone is welcome, but we hope you come ready to express your opinions and ideas about what makes our community tick and how we can sustain the soul and the passion key to Whistler’s past success through a future full of inevitable change.

Open and honest dialogue is essential to any healthy and engaged community and we invite all community-minded and mountain-spirited individuals to what we hope will be an enriching and enlightening evening.

Doors open at 6pm, talk begins at 7pm. Tickets are $10; $5 for Museum members and Club Shred. Cash bar, 19+.

H.I.T.: 20 Years of Grassroots Action

Whistler became the community it is today in large part thanks to the incredible natural wealth in our surroundings. However, the extent to which this natural wealth has been protected and preserved is a testament to the character of the community that has grown here.

A deep understanding of this intertwined relationship spurred Arthur De Jong to action two decades ago. Working as Mountain Planning & Environmental Resource Manager for Whistler-Blackcomb, Arthur was a frequent attendee at meetings where local environmental groups and engaged citizens raised a variety of ecological concerns. There was no shortage of will, but Arthur stepped in and created a simple, effective way to address these problems.

“Why don’t we have a group dedicated to fixing what they can within a short time-frame to address some of the smaller, easier-to-fix environmental issues in the valley?”, Arthur wondered. And thus, H.I.T. was born.

This past week the Habitat Improvement Team, or H.I.T. wrapped up their 20th summer of grassroots environmental rehabilitation in the Whistler Valley. The enduring success of the group is in large part thanks to the group’s deceptively simple structure (and, of course, Whistlerites’ enthusiasm for the local environment).

The H.I.T. team after a night rehabilitating the riparian zone. Photo courtesy Arthur De Jong.

Bi-weekly, all summer long, a group of volunteers come together and get to work on a predetermined project. Arthur coordinates the team and determines the work schedule, with input from local community groups. Whistler-Blackcomb supports the group with transportation support and a late après at Merlin’s for the thirsty volunteers.

A lot of the group’s early work focused on improving fish habitat in the valley by replanting native species in disturbed riparian zones, preventing suffocating erosion on adjacent trails and stream banks, and other rehabilitation projects.

W-B’s Wendy Robinson transporting native plants for habitat restoration.  Photo courtesy Arthur De Jong.

 

Over the years the group’s mandate expanded beyond ecological restoration to other environmentally oriented projects such as hiking trail maintenance and improvement, installing interpretive signage, cleaning up areas of high garbage accumulation, and packaging retired Whistler-Blackcomb uniforms for shipment to developing nations such as Romania and India. 

Getting retired uniforms ready for shipment. Photo Courtesy Arthur De Jong.

Just this summer, H.I.T. cleared parts of the Lost Lake interpretive trails, removed invasive burdock plants, packaged clothing for international aid, completed 2 work nights on the Ancient Cedars trail (more on this project in next week’s column), and helped build a pollinator garden at the Spruce Grove community gardens.

 

For their efforts, H.I.T. has been awarded a Silver Eagle for Community Relations by the National Ski Areas Association, and special recognition for business leadership at the Shift Conference for Public Lands Management in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. On a more personal level, Arthur notes that “it’s always a joy to walk through parts of the valley and seeing areas that H.I.T. was instrumental in restoring. That’s quite rewarding.”

And it’s not just Arthur who feels gratified. Many of the volunteers contributing this past summer have been involved for years, some nearly the entire 20 years that H.I.T. has been active. Ultimately the big winner is the local environment, which is greener, more productive, and more appreciated thanks to two decades of grassroots, volunteer-led efforts from H.I.T.

Happy volunteers. Photo courtesy Arthur De Jong.