A Chilliwack resident has collected thousands of online signatures against a proposed gondola project to be built on Crown land above Bridal Falls.
Lars Thomsen wrote in the petition preamble at Change.Org that the main concern is: “4,200+- hectares of proposed land getting shut down to the recreational users ranging from hikers, biking, and off-road vehicles of all types.”
The petition titled “Banding together to be the voice of opposition for the Chilliwack Gondola,” and it registered more than 3,700 online signatures by Wednesday afternoon.
Thomsen said the goal was to prevent “as much loss” as possible in terms of recreation areas.
“We understand we won’t have the whole project shut down but being able to mediate as much loss as possible is the goal,” he wrote. “We want to see this area available to all user groups in the near future.”
Supporters who signed the petitition were arguing in favour of maintaining access to the “wild” areas for all recreational users, and against a massive tourist-oriented attraction they fear will restrict access.
The petition preamble warns it could shut down “the Thurston area to Chipmunk FSR to all public use.”
But in the provincial documents for a licence of Crown land occupation, submitted to the BC ARFD, it says the initial phase is only “to access and conduct studies on the Crown land to assess the feasibility of construction of gondola ride above Bridal Falls,” and the the “large” application area is for the investigations and that the second phase, if it gets to that, would be a “smaller” footprint.
The link to the project under review by the province is here but it is early in the process.
Chilliwack resident Holly McKeen posted that everyone commenting this week on popular Chilliwack Facebook page should maybe wait before opposing the project.
“Important to note that the application to study does not appear to close access to the area as alleged in the petition… whether for or against, best to at least have all the correct info moving through the process. I want to know more on many fronts before deciding for or against. It’s very early.”
In terms of access to the mountains, mobility of the user is sometimes a factor, McKeen suggested in the online group Good Life in Chilliwack.
“I would love my elderly Mom and Dad to have been able to get up there and enjoy the amazing beauty of our valley. Just because I can manage the hike, I feel it sounds elitist wanting to keep others not as able-bodied from this experience. I think there are many positives to this project,” McKeen said.
Another Facebook comment was from Tim Epp: “I’ve decided to keep an open mind about this and wait until an actual proposal is presented. Personally I think an online petition against is very premature as we (nor they) don’t have the necessary facts. Choose your battles carefully.”
But Ryan Bayes of Chilliwack, president of the Coquihalla Snowmobiling Club, contacted The Progress to say he is worried about the scope of the gondola project being larger than some imagine.
There is growing concern among various user groups, he said, that the proposed project would mean a big loss of some of the “best recreational area” anywhere in the Fraser Valley.
“From a snowmobiling point of view there won’t be anywhere else in Chilliwack to go,” Bayes said. “Everything else has gates on it.”