In anticipation of another busy summer in Whistler, the RMOW is exploring initiatives to ensure a positive resort experience for residents and visitors.
Following an increase of visitors in Whistler last summer, which resulted in unprecedented demand on park infrastructure and resources, planning is underway to ensure residents and visitors enjoy an authentic and enjoyable experience this summer. The proposed Whistler Summer Experience 2021 Plan is outlined below.
At the March 16 Council meeting, staff presented a ‘Whistler Summer Experience 2021 Plan’ for Council consideration that aims to provide improved visitor and resident experiences opportunities for local business as well as test initiatives related to local transportation and climate action.
In anticipation of an increase of visitors this summer, parks planning initiatives are underway to manage the increase while retaining Whistler’s renowned resort experience. The Whistler Summer Experience 2021 Plan has been developed with six objectives:
- Maintain public safety including COVID-19 safety measures.
- Educate visitors about Whistler.
- Respond to capacity challenges.
- Provide enhanced and diversified experiences.
- Provide opportunities for local business.
- Test local transit initiatives related to climate action objectives.
Key focus areas include increased local transportation offerings, additional park infrastructure and visitor dispersion programming. The plan maintains COVID-19 safety while focusing on several key areas including:
- increased parking management
- increased local transit and sustainable transportation offerings
- visitor dispersion and programming
- improved park experiences and
- local business opportunities.
In an effort to manage the demand at some of Whistler’s busier parks and to reduce local travel emissions, the plan includes the implementation of user pay parking at Rainbow, Lakeside, Alpha and Wayside Parks during the summer months. The implementation of seasonal pay parking will align with pay structures in place in the day lots and on Main Street, with revenues supporting the seasonal park shuttle service, as well as other park operations.
The plan will be tested, monitored and adjusted as necessary in response to the dynamic nature of Public Health Orders and other variables. Additionally, new initiatives will be evaluated for long term operational effectiveness and serve as pilots for future initiatives.
The volume of regional visitors in summer 2020 combined with physical distancing presented considerable capacity challenges at municipal parks and several trailheads – including parking lots, washrooms, waste bins, open space – and provided an indication of what can be expected for the summer of 2021 without careful planning.
In addition to managing Whistler’s parks, the implementation of health and safety measures required an expanded role for RMOW staff in managing the visitor experience including additional sanitation stations, increased waste removal services, and redeployment of municipal staff as park hosts to provide information to visitors.
On March 16 2021, Council endorced the Whistler Summer Experience 2021 Plan. This spring, staff will continue work towards partial plan implementation by the May long weekend and full implementation prior to the end of June.
The RMOW successfully pivoted operations in 2020 to facilitate a safe experience for residents and guests. With summer 2021 approaching, staff must ensure that a safe experience can be achieved and that opportunities for local businesses through regional visitation can be optimized. The proposed initiatives contained in this report have been informed by ongoing cross-divisional staff engagement and represent innovative pilot programs. Staff are in the initial stages of engagement with resort partners, prospective service providers, Vancouver Coastal Health and relevant Provincial ministries including the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
The municipality has submitted a grant application to the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative that could potentially offset $250,000 of the Plan’s implementation costs. The net impact on the budget as presented in the ‘Whistler Summer Experience 2021 Plan’ is anticipated to be minimal if the grant application is successful. A budget amendment may ultimately be required and will be presented to Council at a future date.