After 20 years of heated debate, B.C. officially announced on Tuesday the creation of the Jumbo Glacier resort municipality.
Community Development Minister Bill Bennett formally announced the creation of the municipality and appointed former mayor of Radium Hot Springs Greg Deck, Nancy Hugunin and Steve Ostrander the community's first mayor and council, the CBC is reporting.
Plans have been on the books for decades for a Whistler-style ski resort and village with hotels, about 55 kilometres from the town of Invermere, which is heavily trafficked by Calgarians, who own most of the second homes in the area.
The original concept was first endorsed by former NDP premier Mike Harcourt in the early 1990s.
But the project was thought to be all but dead after years of divisive debate, with many local residents, environmental groups, the B.C. NDP and at least one First Nation opposed to the project.
Then in March, the provincial government announced it was approving the development plans.
Bennett told the Cranbrook Daily Townsman B.C. will pitch in financially to build the municipality.
"This is not unusual. This is what the province always does."
It would not be the first time B.C. has chosen to go that route, Bennett said, citing Whistler, Tumbler Ridge and Sun Peaks as mountain resorts that were built in the same manner, the Daily Townsman reported.
But unlike those other resorts, Jumbo will be a glacier resort and has been at the centre of a heated and contentious fight that goes back more than two decades, with proponents promising year-round skiing on glaciers and with opponents citing everything from rapidly melting glaciers, to lack of infrastructure in the Purcell Mountains to handle that kind of growth, the eradication of the grizzly bear from the region and environmental degradation as reasons the resort shouldn't see the light of day.
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Local governments, community groups, First Nations, as well as high-profile personalities, such Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal winner Scott Niedermayer have spoken up against the project, which now seems inevitable.
"I grew up in the Kootenays and value the stunning and rugged beauty that the region has to offer," said Niedermayer.
“I have always been a vocal opponent of development happening in the Jumbo Valley. There are very few areas like this left in the world, and we should preserve it for future generations.
"I want my children and all British Columbians to be able to enjoy this area, just as I am able to."
Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft called it "a land grab," and that, "at the end of the day, the local population won't see much benefit from it."
The Ktunaxa Nation, one of those leading the charge against the development of Jumbo Glacier, said B.C. "is making a Jumbo mistake," citing the precarious nature of grizzly habitat in the area and their people's religious connections to the land.
"There's a reason why it's taking the government 20 years to consider this - it's because it doesn't make any sense," said Ktunaxa council member Troy Sebastian.
Bennett called the process leading up to this point, the most exhaustive public consultation in B.C. history, adding the province believes the project will attract $900 million in investment and create 750 jobs, the CBC said.
The municipality is to be operational by its incorporation date of Feb. 19, 2013, Bennett said.