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Silvertip gondola project to enter public engagement phase

The long-awaited potential gondola in Silvertip Resort in Canmore will soon hit the public engagement phase.

CANMORE – The long-awaited potential gondola in Silvertip Resort in Canmore will soon hit the public engagement phase.

The proposed project, which would see a gondola connect from a base station in the Palliser Trail area to Silvertip Village Resort and then continue to a Mount Lady Macdonald station, will allow the community to give feedback.

Stone Creek Resorts Inc., which owns Silvertip Village Resort, has voluntarily committed to completing an environmental impact study though one isn’t needed.

Lindsay Beston, the project manager, said she wasn’t able to give any information until the campaign launches next week.

“We are early in the process and we’re getting ready to advertise the terms of reference, which will be next week, and we will be looking for the public’s review and feedback.”

Any comments would go to Alberta Environment and Parks and the deadline is June 13.

The proposed development area is roughly 14.9 hectares, with 13.9 hectares of it being on Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park.

According to the gondola project’s website, it would have a Palliser base station that would connect with a Silvertip Village base station and continue to the Mount Lady Macdonald station. It would go through Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, public land, the Municipal District of Bighorn and the Town of Canmore-owned land.

The proposed terms of reference for the environmental impact assessment highlighted it will focus on gaining public feedback and consulting with Indigenous communities.

The project scope of the environmental impact assessment will eventually come back with a focus on such potential impacts on wildlife, vegetation, land use management and a socio-economic assessment.

Silvertip committed to complete a voluntary environmental impact assessment and engage First Nations to Alberta Environment and Parks on Nov. 2, 2016, which would be reviewable by the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB).

“The director responsible for environmental assessment has directed that this activity is not a mandatory activity for the purposes of environmental assessment, and Stone Creek has voluntarily elected to prepare an environmental impact assessment report for the project,” according to the notice of project found on the gondola project’s website.

A project summary was previously submitted to the NRCB in May 2016.

The Silvertip area structure plan was approved by Canmore council in 2007. The area also has land that’s considered a wildlife corridor at both the lower and upper silvertip corridors surrounding Silvertip Golf Course.

In September, the previous Canmore council approved a working group of area landowners for a path moving forward in managing the lower corridor. Among those landowners are Stone Creek, the Town of Canmore, the province and Canmore Community Housing.

Significant flood mitigation work is expected in the coming years in the area.

At the Nov. 16, 2021, committee of the whole meeting, Canmore council heard work would be ongoing for the next several years at Stoneworks Creek, Cougar Creek and Stone Creek, which all run in the area of Silvertip Village. The construction of the three projects is expected to run until 2026.

In the Bow Valley region, there are existing gondolas at Sulphur Mountain, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. In Banff, a proposal for a gondola by Liricon Capital as part of the train station ARP became a highly discussed election issue. The plan has yet to be approved by either the federal government, which is required since it is in Banff National Park, or Banff council.

A project description for the Silvertip gondola was previously submitted on Jan. 27, 2021, but rejected by Alberta Environment and Parks.

“Unfortunately, the project as proposed is inconsistent with the current land management direction set forth under the Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park protected area designation and the provisions of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan,” the AEP letter stated.

However, the letter noted it didn’t stop any future projects but that any future plans would need “substantial consultation and review in other areas.”

It highlighted that the Mount Lady Macdonald area would need to be reclassified as a provincial park, small areas of public land would need to be amalgamated and the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan would need to be updated.

The letter also noted an NRCB decision on “a positive public interest” would be needed as well as an environmental impact assessment and only then would the province weigh in.

“The public interest review by the NRCB could assist in informing the Crown’s decisions to amend the park boundary and SSRP, and proceeding in this manner reduces duplication and unnecessary delay,” the July 12, 2021, letter from the province, wrote.

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