Tag Archives: protest

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.

This Week in Photos: April 26

1980

Jim McConkey displays the McConkey Cup Trophy.

Kris Shoup instructs John Garnet in the school mini-course knitting class while Serap Graf and Monica Niederlich concentrate on the task at hand.

Recently engaged couple Deanna Chan & Graeme O’Neill.

On the Coast Mountain Outdoor School farm site – (L to R) Outdoor Education Coordinator Rick Price, W.L.B. Hawkes of the Ministry of Education, and Pemberton School Trustee T.B.M. (Slim) Fougberg.

A class visiting the Coast Mountain Outdoor School farm learns about chickens.

Johnson’s Trucking gravel crushing plant at work in the Alpha Lake Aggregate pit.

1981

And the winners are: (L to R) Tom Simister, Richard Juryn, Perry Rousseau & Debbie Wood – with the Whistler Cup.

Architect Barclay McLeod and developer Brian Moran indicate to council and concerned Adventures West owners the proposed plans for the ‘Keg property’.

May the Force be with you. Ezekial and His Force rock and reggae it up at the Mountain House until May 2.

Constable Klaudt of Whistler RCMP and Ron Mallinson of Ike’s Towing try to figure out how this Plymouth Horizon ended up in the ditch by the Alta Lake Inn turnoff late on Saturday, April 25!

1982

Survivors of the April blizzards, these crocuses stand proudly in Whistler Village.

Youngsters give it their best during an end-of-season match of Snowball (created by Doug Calder) held at Myrtle Philip School grounds.

Skiers on Whistler enjoyed the sun as much as the runs Sunday.

After a day on the mountain, a little recovery is in order. A siesta helps revive tired muscles.

Sowing so he’ll reap, Resort Municipality of Whistler maintenance man Brian Sandercock prepares the turf for summer.

Two contestants go under the pole during Friday’s Caribbean Night held at L’Apres. Michael Chidley limboed his way to Mexico taking first place in the competition. Val Wong’s style won her first prize in the women’s competition and a heli-skiing trip.

1983

A top-notch mogul basher takes one of the two required air times in his run down Whistler’s Raven run in the Schloss Laderheim Dual Mogul Classic on Sunday, April 24.

A march protesting nuclear weapons makes its way through Vancouver towards Stanley Park.

Anti-nuclear weapons protestors congregate at the rally.

Bill Runge of Whistler Mountain Ski Corp. fastens down the village’s newest signs on Monday reminding ski enthusiasts to keep heading south to the Gondola side of the mountain.

Got the summertime blues of what to wear this season? Not if you were at The Keg’s Fashion Show Sunday, April 24.

1984

The Whistler Question staff pose for a sunny photo in the Whistler Village.

Dr. Peter Oberlander of Vancouver is the lucky winner of a lifetime Whistler/Blackcomb ski pass. The final draw of the Whistler Rotary Club lottery was held Friday afternoon, and proceeds from the sale of tickets go towards the Whistler Health Planning Society. Rotary Club President Geoff Pearce drew the winning ticket.

Picnickers and powder skiers flew to Powder Moutnain Friday for the annual Powder Mountain Heli-Skiing picnic.

While most people brought along only skis and sunglasses, Pascal Tiphine thought to import a little champagne, which he literally splashed into anyone who didn’t ming a few bubbles up their nose.

The surprised look on Drew Meredith’s face was no surprise, considering that 100 people were gathered at the Carleton Lodge Wednesday night to pay tribute to him. Meredith, who thought he was coming to attend a meeting, listened to roasts and toasts throughout the evening, which paid tribute to his work as Interim Director during the toughest year in the history of Whistler Resort Association.

It was an Easter sunrise service without sunshine, but that didn’t stop approximately 80 people from attending the special 7 am service Sunday morning on the shores of Lost Lake. Molly Boyd, playing the organ, led the Whistler Singers who also turned out in full force.