Residents blocking a construction project near Invermere say they'll stay put until a controversial development near West Farnham Glacier receives permits and a signed development plan from the province.
Protesters stopped road-building equipment about 50 kilometres from Invermere along a forest service road that leads into the West Farnham Glacier on the weekend.
Wildsight, the region's main environmental watchdog, says the road construction is a back-door attempt to move a long-stalled project at Jumbo Glacier along under the guise of a proposed lift and athletes' training facility.
"Machines are tearing up the alpine in Farnham Creek headwaters as we speak... ," said Dave Quinn, Wildsight's Purcell Mountain program manager.
The facilities are part of the proposed Jumbo resort master plan, which remains unsigned at the provincial level.
According to Wildsight, the road construction is taking place through the Farnham Creek headwaters in an alpine area near West Farnham Glacier, adjacent to Jumbo Glacier. If built, Wildsight believes the road will give Glacier Resorts Ltd. an opportunity to build ski lifts inside the proposed boundaries of the resort.
The Calgary Olympic Development Association has operated an athletes training camp on the adjacent East Farnham Glacier since 2005.
Mr. Quinn said four to eight people camped in the area over the past weekend.
Opponents surmised the activity might be an attempt to revive a stale agreement.
Mr. Quinn noted that after 20 years the Jumbo Glacier Resort proposal still doesn't have the necessary rezoning to go ahead.
The government says Wildsight's worries are misguided.
"It's a matter of improving facilities for Canadian skiers," said Peter Walters, executive director of tourism operations for the ministry.
Mr. Walters said the road construction has nothing to do with fulfilling the environmental assessment requirements. However, he conceded the proponent must show substantial work on site by October, 2009.
Mr. Walters said the road is an extension of an existing one to serve a new ski training area on the Farnham Glacier.
With respect to the master development agreement, Mr. Walters said the proponent and provincial government continue to work with representatives from the Ktunaxa and Shuswap First Nations on an accommodation agreement with respect to Jumbo.
At that point the province will be in a position to approve the master development plan.
Even if the road work falls within existing agreements, NDP MLA Norm Macdonald says, the protest is an example of the deep distrust local residents have for the B.C. Liberal government, particularly concerning the Jumbo project.