Tag Archives: Resort Municipality of Whistler

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.

The Lost Lake Debate

For residents and visitors alike, Whistler’s parks are a favourite place to spend a summer day. Each park offers something different, whether it’s the playground at Alpha Lake Park or a history lesson from the cabins at Rainbow Park. Lost Lake Park offers swimming, biking, nature walks, and even disc golf. Back in 1982, when the park was still being developed, there was a debate about whether Lost Lake Park should offer even more than it does today.

Lost Lake Park almost didn’t become a park at all. In the 1960s the two timber licenses in the area were set to expire and developers, who knew the licenses were about to expire, had already started preparing to apply for the waterfront property. Don MacLaurin saw what was happening and contacted his friend Bill in the Parks Branch. With help from Bill and other contacts, the area around Lost Lake was assessed and set aside by the provincial government as a potential Use, Recreation and Enjoyment of the Public (UREP) site.

A jumper unfolds their flip into Lost Lake. Whistler Question Collection.

By 1980, residents were regularly using Lost Lake for recreation. In summers freestyle skiers were training and even holding competitions on the ski jump. In the winters the Alta Lake Sports Club was cross-country skiing in the area, having begun work on their first course in 1976. The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) received official approval for the transfer of the UREP surrounding Lost Lake to the municipality for the purposes of creating a municipal park in August 1980 and plans were made to clear a beach area at the south end of the lake and to further develop the trails already in place.

Their plans were still underway in June 1982, when Municipal Parks Planner Tom Barratt was creating a five-year plan for Lost Lake and the surrounding area (500 acres of Crown Land surrounding the lake was also transferred to the RMOW in 1982). Like before, this plan included clearing the beach area and upgrading the trail system while retaining the area’s “wilderness character.” Most people seemed to have accepted these parts of the plan but the idea of including a permanent concession stand offering snacks, drinks, and paddleboard rentals at Lost Lake Park evoked differing opinions from residents.

Grant Cooper cuts through bush on shores of Lost Lake. Miles of X-country trails are being cut as well as a dock and beach for the south end of Lost Lake. Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

An editorial in the Whistler Question on June 3, 1982 pointed out that opinions on further development of Lost Lake were “sharply divided.” While not agreeing with those who thought the area should remain untouched by the municipal government, the editor wrote: “We understood that the original concept of Lost Lake was that the area was to be cleared up, landscaped, seeded and generally made more attractive, but we really cannot endorse any plans that could well turn this pristine area into Whistler’s own Coney Island.”

One letter to the editor in June 1982 argued that developing a beach for visitors was enough but offering “paddleboards, rubber rafts, canoes, rowboats, fishing rods, towels and fast food” was going too far and asked the question, “How big do our elected members think the lake is?” Another letter supported the building of a moderate concession that could also be used as a warming hut in winter. The Question asked six residents what they thought about the proposed concession stand for their “Whistler’s Answers” feature and while some accepted the sale of food and drink, most did not support boat rentals. (You can read their responses on our Whistorical blog here.)

When weekend temperatures soared to the mid-20s, sun worshippers who had been denied their pleasure for nearly six weeks flocked to Lost Lake like the swallows to Capistrano. Whistler Question Collection, 1983.

By July, the debate appeared to have quieted, most likely because the RMOW would only grant Dave Lalik, who had applied to run the concession stand, a one-year lease while he calculated he would need at least two summers to earn back his investment. Work on Lost Lake Park continued throughout the summer but no concession had opened by the time the park was officially opened on September 11, 1982.

Today the beach at the south end of Lost Lake is incredibly popular, as are the trails that surround the area. There is a concession building that is used as a warming hut for cross-country skiers and snowshoers in the winters, but anyone wanting to float on Lost Lake is still required to bring their own boat.

Eldon Beck Comes to Whistler

It is a commonly held belief that Whistler would be very different today if it were not for the influence of Eldon Beck.  Beck, a trained landscape architect from California, is often credited as the visionary behind the Whistler Village, which he began working on in 1978.

In 1972, Beck’s firm was hired by Vail, Colorado, to consult on a community master plan.  The plan aimed to resolve some of the community’s traffic issues and create a pedestrian-centred village.  From 1972 to 1978, Beck worked with Vail as their primary consultant, a time he described as forming the bulk of his early mountain planning experience.

Eldon Beck stands in the centre, discussing the Whistler Village with an unidentified group. Eldon Beck Collection.

By 1978, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) had spent three years discussing, consulting, planning, and working hard on a town centre to be built on what had been the dump.  The site and funding, from both the provincial and federal governments, were secured; the RMOW, however, did not yet have a final plan for the site.

Terry Minger, who had been the general manager of Vail and would become the president of the Whistler Village Land Company, introduced Beck and Al Raine, the provincial appointee to the Whistler municipal council.  Though Beck described the existing plans for the town centre as a grid plan “like a little city” which “felt like a mini-Vancouver,” there were parts of the council’s plans that excited him.  They wanted to build a pedestrian village (the early plans included a pedestrian spine that was intersected with vehicle crossings) with lots small enough that they could be bought and developed by local developers.  Beck was asked to come take a look and modify the plans, which he felt imposed a building plan on the natural environment rather than letting the land guide the plan.

The Whistler Village under construction, under Beck’s watchful eye. Eldon Beck Collection.

Beck first arrived in Whistler in September 1978.  According to him, his first impression of the area was not of the mountains but of being overwhelmed by the fragrance of the forest.  It was cloudy, as can often by the case in September, and Beck had to trust Raine when he “swore up and down there were mountains.”

The weather did clear up and Beck was able to gain an idea of the site’s natural surroundings, though the site was somewhat overgrown and some of the sightlines were hard to make out.  To get a good view of Fissile Peak, Beck decided to “elevate” himself, or climb as high up a tree as he could (he later claimed this blew Raine away and ensured he got the job).  As he remembered it, he was then taken to someone’s garage where he was introduced to the council and asked to come up with something for their next meeting.

Eldon Beck and Drew Meredith speak at the event on the development of Whistler Village in 2019.  Whistler Museum Collection.

In the foreward to Beck’s book Edges, Raine claimed that the Village Stroll and some of the buildings of the Whistler Village began to appear on Beck’s sketch book within the next 24 hours.  His plans were presented to council three days later and quickly endorsed.  What was supposed to have been a modification of the existing plans had become a wholly new design.

Beck’s visit to Whistler in 1978 was the first of many (he was most recently here last October, when he participated in a speaker event on the development of the Whistler Village) and the beginning of a longstanding relationship with a town he describes as “a happy place.”

A Virtual AGM: A First for the Whistler Museum

This Thursday (June 11) the Whistler Museum & Archives Society will be hosting our 2020 AGM online beginning at 5 pm using Zoom, one of the many online platforms that have become increasingly popular over the past few months.  Though this will be the first time in over thirty years of operations that we will not be able to welcome our members in person, we’re looking forward to connecting with all who attend using the means currently available.

Most years our AGM includes dinner and a chance for members to catch up, but this year members will all be responsible for providing their own refreshments.

The Whistler Museum & Archives Society became an official non-profit organization in February 1987, but work to start a museum had begun well before that.  In the late 1970s Myrtle Philip and Dick Fairhurst, both early Alta Lake residents, had expressed their concerns to Florence Petersen that the history of the small community would be lost as skiing became more and more popular in the area.  In the summer of 1986 Florence and a group of dedicated volunteers began gathering items and archival records to tell their stories.  Sadly, both Myrtle and Dick passed away before the first museum opened as a temporary showcase in the back room of the Whistler Library in the basement of Municipal Hall.

The first museum displays in the Whistler Library, then located in the basement of Municipal Hall.  Whistler Museum Collection.

The Whistler Museum moved into its own space in January 1988 when it took over the old municipal hall building in Function Junction.  Thanks to the generosity of the Whistler Rotary Club, who helped renovate the space, the museum was able to open to the public in June 1989 with exhibits on skiing and natural history and even a replica of Myrtle Philip’s sitting room.  Over its first season of operations, the Whistler Museum attracted over 2,000 visitors.  The following summer that number increased to over 3,800 visitors.

Florence poses at the Function Junction location with the new Museum sign in 1988 – this same sign adorns the side of the Museum today.  Whistler Museum Collection.

The museum remained in its Function Junction location until 1995, when it and the library both moved into temporary spaces on Main Street.  Though the new location was actually quite a bit smaller than the old one, this was more than made up for by its increased visibility and prime location.  In the first month of operation in the Village the museum attracted 2,168 visitors to is new exhibits.  The museum began to offer programs, such as walking tours and school trips, participated in community events such as the Canada Day Parade, and even published cookbooks sharing recipes from local restaurants and community members.

The Whistler Museum and Archives cookbook committee, April 1997: Janet Love-Morrison, Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum and Archives Society), Darlyne Christian and Caroline Cluer.

In 2009 the Whistler Museum reopened in its current location (conveniently right next door to its previous building) with a new interior and new permanent exhibits with support from the RMOW, the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, the Community Foundation of Whistler, the American Friends of Whistler and, of course, many community members.  From this space the museum has continued to offer programs and events, participate in community events, and offer temporary exhibits on different topics (though there have been no cookbooks published recently, First Tracks, Florence Petersen’s book on the history of Alta Lake, is now in its third printing and is available at the museum by request).

We hope that all of our members will be able to join us next Thursday to look back on the past year of museum operations (our busiest on record!).  For information on how to attend or to check on the status of your membership, please call the museum at 604-932-2019 or email us at events@whistlermuseum.org.