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Whistler youth share ideas with council

Blog by Nick Swinburne | December 12th, 2010

Young people in Whistler want to see a transit route that connects Emerald Estates and Function Junction, more extracurricular activities in the resort geared towards youth, and they don’t want Whistler to develop or grow beyond its current size.

Those were some of the ideas repeated this week when the Official Community Plan (OCP) Youth Advisory Group met with Whistler council. A group of about 14 local students in Grades 8 to 12 took part in a council workshop on Tuesday (Dec. 7) at Millennium Place.

The youth have been working in recent months to engage their peers in discussions about what’s great about Whistler, what could be improved and what’s missing in the community.

A questionnaire was distributed around Whistler Secondary School (WSS) in June and members of the advisory group have recently made class presentations and held a brainstorming session during a lunch hour at the school.

“Youth have a lot to say and most of us are quite interested in what’s going to happen to our town in the future,” Grade 12 student Jake Lepine told council.

Issues such as the location of the asphalt plant, light pollution from the new transit yard near Nesters, the increasing prevalence of retail and restaurant chains in the Village and the proposal for a university in Whistler were all raised during the session.

Members of council seemed impressed at the understanding the youth possessed about local matters.

“It’s refreshing to hear your thoughtfulness,” said Mayor Ken Melamed.

Members of the Youth Advisory Group also participated in a two-day Community Asset Mapping Project, or CAMP Whistler, in September, which was facilitated by the International Centre for Sustainable Cities. Using a large map of Whistler, youth identified existing resources and then discussed what the community needs.

Ideas identified to enhance Whistler included community greenhouses in each neighbourhood; opportunities for post-secondary training in trades, languages, culinary arts, film and photography; greater accessibility in the Village; and a Highway 99 express bus route, said Mason Protter.

Similar themes emerged from the various self-directed classroom presentations that members of the advisory group made to their peers. The express bus route was a desire of each class, as was the idea that Whistler should not grow bigger than its current size.

“Whistler is a very special place,” Lepine said. “A lot of the youth like the fact that this is a small town.”

In one Social Studies Grade 11 class, most of the students indicated that they don’t see themselves living in Whistler long-term. Many felt they would be unable to stay in Whistler after graduation because of high housing costs.

The advisory group is currently meeting about once a month to discuss local issues and plan. Grade 11 student Ali Calladine said so far much of the group’s work has been collecting information, but moving forward they may begin taking on projects.

The group is also brainstorming ways to continue to engage local youth after the OCP review process is complete. Liam Rode said the group has recommended a Whistler 2020 youth task force be created.

Councillor Ralph Forsyth asked if the youth would be interested in meeting with a woman from Victoria who started a youth advisory group there that was given some municipal funds to develop programming for youth. The response was enthusiastic.

For more information on the Youth Advisory Group or the OCP review process, visit www.whistler2010.com.