Zincton Mountain Resort would be built along the slopes of Whitewater Mountain near New Denver. The road shown south of the tenure is Highway 31A between New Denver and Kaslo. Photo: Brent Harley and Associates

Zincton Mountain Resort would be built along the slopes of Whitewater Mountain near New Denver. The road shown south of the tenure is Highway 31A between New Denver and Kaslo. Photo: Brent Harley and Associates

Zincton proponents answer questions in virtual open house

Environmental concerns were a persistent theme

By Timothy Schafer

Local Journalism Initiative, The Nelson Daily

The environmental question took centre stage recently during a virtual public open house for the region’s potential newest ski hill.

Although the question-and-answer period during the Thursday night online open house for Zincton was brief — with less than 12 questions fielded by the panel — it did have a green theme.

Hosted by province’s Mountain Resorts Branch, the evening included opening comments on the Zincton proposal by proponent David Harley, a rundown of the review process by the branch’s Zoran Boskovic and the Zincton formal proposal presentation by Harley, Cascades Environmental’s Dave Williamson and Brent Harley of Brent Harley and Associates.

One of the main concerns raised at the outset of the public question period has been the No. 1 concern of those against the project: that increased awareness and use in the Goat Pass area will cause increased environmental damage.

But that was not the case, David Harley insisted.

“If left in an unmanaged state there could be risk of that kind of outcome, but that’s not what is proposed under the controlled recreation area,” he said.

“It would be managed and there won’t be uncontrolled access by whomever feels the need to go up there and do whatever they want whenever they want with whatever toys they want.

“That’s where the impacts generally occur with wildlife: in inappropriate and unexpected activities on the landscape. That just isn’t what Zincton is all about.”

Others asked how much public land will be privatized to create Zincton. Although the option for more land was available to Zincton, it was declined, said David Harley.

“We believe that we don’t require any additional lands to finance the project,” he said. “We declined the offer and we want all of these lands to be intact, in one piece and available for future generations.“

Another person wondered how the cumulative effects of the proposal were being handled, relative to the other land uses in the region.

Boskovic said the provincial Zincton project review team was actively looking to obtain the “biggest” data on the values of concern.

“We are working with our sister agencies and GIS analysts within the ministry to receive the information and understand the current conditions for the values of concerns,” he said, adding that the assessments were strategic and covered a large area, so they weren’t project specific.

He said there was no requirement to do cumulative effects at the current stage of the planning process.

A proposal glimpse

Zincton — located in the Goat Pass region in the Slocan Valley — is proposed to be an inclusive lift-assisted ski area with backcountry skiing, with what will be the lowest density ski area in the world if it comes to pass.

The Zincton village is located on private land, not on the tenured land that is part of the proposal.

Zincton village will occupy about 70 acres of the private parcel of land, with the lift company only running lifts, safety, roads and reservations.

Several amenities are expected to crop up in the village, with some commercial buildings with residences above. People employed by the mountain could live in on-hill residences.

The gondola up to the village will be no charge for residents and all visitors year-round, with on-hill staff residence accommodation helping reduce housing pressure on nearby communities.

Some asked what the impact on wildlife of the area could be, and how resident wildlife had been considered in the planning of Zincton.

Williamson said the idea was to avoid interaction with wildlife and manage the activities that take place on the landscape.

“We believe that is still the best tool in the quiver for the impacts to wildlife,” he said.

He said spatial and seasonal closures during periods when wildlife was occupying an area would occur.

There was some concern about skiers and hibernating grizzlies.

“Because of the nature of the operation and the environmental management plan, the objective is to locate any dens that may have been established over the winter and flag them off as ‘no go’ areas and make sure everybody knows that,” said Williamson.

“Monitoring will be an active part of the project, I understand, as it moves forward.”

The question of how Zincton will affect the public and long-term residents who currently use the pass was asked.

“In the winter the idea is for the entire tenure area to remain open to human-powered recreational activities at no cost from the Fish Lake parking area and Murray Creek,” said David Harley.

“We are very aware of the historical use and it’s definitely been used in the last 30 years by backcountry skiers.

“So, recognizing that, we’ve offered seasonal passes to backcountry skiers and 110 folks signed up and received seasonal lift passes.”

He added that being able to improve the land with emergency huts and EV bus transportation, and improve avalanche management systems would be advantageous for anybody using the terrains.

Public comment and review period

The public review and comment period runs until Nov. 23.

You can submit comments through the Applications, Comments and Reasons for Decision website during the review period online at https://comment.nrs.gov.bc.ca/applications (search for 4406015) or by mail to Mountain Resorts Branch, 510 – 175 2nd Ave., Kamloops, V2C 5W1

Land and wildlife first

One of the hallmarks of the proposal is the remediation, not development, of the backcountry, said David Harley in his presentation.

The land in the tenure is public land and cannot be subdivided or sold with very little development on it: a backcountry lodge midway along London Ridge, some grading, and up to seven very small backcountry emergency huts, he said.

Even so, only 20 per cent of the land in the tenure will be used for the lift-serviced terrain, with the remainder left alone as backcountry skiing.

Harley said in the proposal portion of his presentation that over 200 mining claims reside in the tenure, including the old Retallack Mining District, which existed from 1890 to 1960, before remediation laws existed.

Once it is given the approval to proceed, Zincton has pledged to commit one per cent of its ski revenue to fund a 60-year, $13-million remediation of the contaminated Retallack Mining District.