After the Music Stopped…

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: July 29, 2015

AS THE Squamish Valley Music Festival comes closer, Jim Whittaker is hoping that the District of Squamish and festival organisers would ensure his street and his property remains out of harm’s way. He’s been given all kinds of assurances. But he remains sceptical for promises were made last year but they remained just that, promises. svmf-main
“We’ll see because last year was a complete failure. The festival people were willing to give the world if everyone would just shut up. I put requests for all sorts of things but they completely ignored me,” Whittaker said.
He claims the council and the district didn’t seem too eager to listen to him, even though the Mayor this year has promised to meet and talk to him.
“Last year, I attempted to bring this problem to the council’s attention with a detailed telephone message to each councilor but was ignored by the present mayor and two repeat councilors. Only Ted Prior acknowledged my concerns,” he said.
Whittaker’s property borders Pioneer Way and is nearest to the campground. He was assured by the Squamish Valley Music Festival’s Paul Runnals that Pioneer Way, between Queensway and the rail station, would be closed off and monitored but that never happened. It was a hellish few days, Whittaker says.
“There were 55 cars parked on the street and most of the people lived in their cars for the whole festival. There were no toilet facilities in the area and the surrounding roadside became a public latrine. In the mornings, puddles of urine marked the doorways of occupied cars and feces and toilet paper littered the shoulders and adjoining yards,” he says.
Pioneer Way, he adds, became a public latrine as those who lived in their cars for the festival used it to answer nature’s calls.
He says when he called up the district, he was told there were no specific bylaws disallowing people to stay in their cars. He was told to contact the festival security about his concerns who, he claims, said they had their own problems to deal with. “Complaints to bylaw officers and the RCMP were useless as Squamish does not have any regulations regarding overnight parking and camping,” he says.
What was even more disappointing, Whittaker says, was response of the district and the councillors who didn’t seem interested in his concerns. He says district officials acted more like employees of the festival rather than district representatives. The district staff dismissed his complaints and said the promoters were fulfilling their obligations. One official gave him an emergency phone number which didn’t prove to be of much help, he says.
Even though the festival organizers have now assured they are taking all steps to allay his concerns, Whittaker hopes they act on their word. He is especially concerned about people starting fire in the forest and the use of Pioneer Way as a public latrine.
“The neighbouring area will host 12,000 people smoking a variety of substances, and many will have no regard for fire regulations. A second major concern is that the area will become a large public latrine as the area was unusable for months after the event due to human filth,” he says.
Whittaker says he is also concerned for the safety of his family and horses and property as he fears trespassing and vandalism and drunken behavior. He would be meeting the mayor soon and he has been assured by the festival committee that they would be taking adequate steps to ensure residents like him don’t face such problems.
Julia Roberts, a resident of Northyards neighbourhood, says she wasn’t impressed with the security arrangements and there was over-parking and people urinating on the street. Roberts runs a child care and was told security would be around to ensure there were no problems but that didn’t happen. Roberts, however, has been to several meetings and is confident the district and festival organizers would do a better job of addressing neighbourhood concerns this time.
Hayley Thomas, media representative for the festival, says there would be a barrier and a security point at the west side of the intersection on Pioneer and Queens Way. The organisers will also put up no-parking signs and a temporary barricade closure of west Pioneer Way, increase security patrols of the surrounding neighbourhood, place Port-a-Potties and waste receptacles on the outside perimeter of the festival grounds at Queens/Pioneer Ways. The event organizer will also review closure of the CN access road that runs perpendicular to west Pioneer Way to ensure vehicles aren’t accessing west Pioneer Way from Government Rd. The festival’s hotline will be open at least a week earlier this year for festival attendees and the community to access festival information.
District film and event manager, Vanessa Carrington, says the district would also be increasing the number of bylaw staff during this festival. She says community input and feedback are extremely valuable and help with the festival plans.
Whittaker, meanwhile, says he is looking forward to see if all the promises being made this time by both the district and the festival organisers would be actually kept.
“I have talked to everyone I could but I always seem to get short-circuited so I guess we will have to wait and watch what happens this time,” he said.

Comments

  1. Glenne Campbell says:

    The concerns of these residents and others are very valid. Sanitation, waste management and fire prevention – important to everyone. Hope SVMF employees and attendees are on the lookout for smashed glass bottles in the grass and forest. SVMF is part of a publicly traded corporation on the New York Stock Exchange ” Live Nation” .