Letter: be careful with VGD

(Read at the VGD open house and submitted to The Goat, edited with permission for clarity)

I would like to take the opportunity to speak to two aspects of the Valemount Glacier Destinations project:

1) The realization of the project may lead to higher property taxes. This could be a hard hit for citizens with a low income and for seniors which have no chance to improve their income. This includes the majority of the future employees of VGD who are expecting a little higher income (perhaps little) above minimum wage. One solution to this is to calculate from the beginning of project what is a living wage! And please build more than chicken coops for them too. Provide decent housing for them.

The solution for the other group lies with the politicians of this province, because this is not only an issue in Valemount; it’s a social problem in all regions with similar projects. I urge the representatives of the district and the province to accept the responsibility for this and find solutions for that issue! The Council of Valemount should address this topic and should provide land for social and affordable living in town, with guidelines for sound-proofing homes with a better insulation instead of fancy roofs!

2) 100 years ago, a group of men (probably less women) similar to the community here today decided to build the railway through this valley. They wanted to connect Canada and allow people access to the Rockies. Naturally they wanted to earn money too, why not?

Today we sit together in a similarly historic situation. The realization of VGD has the same meaning for Valemount as the construction of the railway or the highway.

However, the function of a project in the tourism sector is not the same as the construction of a gas pipeline or a mine. In the post-industrial society, there is not only the desire for leisure and fun, there is also a need and desire for recreation, regeneration and rehabilitation (regain your energy for the labour) and a need to reconnect with nature.

The success of such a project also depends on our ability to create alternate experiences for our guests. VGD should be more than just another Golden, Revelstoke or Whistler. We have the choice to build an illusion, like the Glacier Walk in Jasper Park or some show in Las Vegas. But how much more value is possible if we reach out for a new way to experience the natural beauty, the glacier, and the mountains and share the desire to learn what lies behind it? There is a growing demand for real experiences and real adventure.

For this we need committed architects and investors who bring more than money! I expect more from the VGD developers and investors – I expect your heart, your visions and dreams. Can we even measure this kind of value, if we could develop a new culture of tourism that is sustainable, value-creating and not destructive?

I expect the input from the citizens of Valemount. Don’t stay behind the fence; raise your questions and concerns. Talk with your family, with your friends. It’s about a desire to integrate the community with the changes that are coming. For me it’s not a financial problem, it’s more a question of willingness to be an active part of a completely different community!

The gondola can be the beginning of a beautiful day for skiing or hiking, but it opens the chance for a new experience of the indescribable beauty of nature and our connectedness to it. Imagine if we could build “exploring” trails and create a real experience and provide trained guides for this, like the first mountain guides from Austria 100 years ago. The railroad companies brought them here from Europe to provide those mountain experiences, to give people a reason to come to the mountains, like they did in the Alps.

This was and is the attraction of the Alps in Europe. The first skiers and hikers came as guests and left as friends.

Please build more than a Glacier Walk, a fake experience!

Build as energy-saving and nature-friendly as possible, a new kind of destination and do not be satisfied with second class solutions.

Maybe we can share our passion for this valley with our guests, the spirit of the Rockies, the experience of breathing in the mountains, and the heartbeat of a glacier and pass it on. This would be worth more than any interest payments, any return on financial investment, but it’s a better base for the financial investment too. We would create a legacy, beyond today, for us, our families and the next generation. I believe the VGD people want to do this, but the community needs to want to do it as well. Thank you!

Herbert Boenisch,
Valemount BC

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