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Ski hill inks deal with Sts'ailes

Ralph Berezan and Chief William Charlie sign a 60-year participation agreement that will help shape the future of Hemlock Ski Resort.  - Submitted photo
Ralph Berezan and Chief William Charlie sign a 60-year participation agreement that will help shape the future of Hemlock Ski Resort.
— image credit: Submitted photo

Plans to expand Hemlock Ski Resort into a year-round ski destination got a little further ahead last week, with the signing of a participation agreement.

Berezan Group, who own the resort, sat down with Sts'ailes Chief William Charlie and Council on Friday to sign the deal and celebrate their partnership. Sts'ailes (formerly known as Chehalis) is the closest community to Hemlock, and visitors to the ski hill drive through the community to get there.

The Berezan Group approached Chief Charlie and the rest of council in the spring of 2009 out of respect for their aboriginal interests and with a desire to ensure that the Sts'ailes could, in principle, support the development of a master plan in which the proposed developments at  Hemlock Resort are outlined.

With that agreement signed, Berezan will now proceed with approvals from regional and provincial governments.

The agreement lays the groundwork for cooperation between the two parties as Berezan Group plans to expand the existing Hemlock Resort and turn it into a world class year-round destination.

Charlie described the expansion plan "as the most ambitious and largest development ever proposed for the west side of Harrison Lake," that could impact infrastructure, employment opportunities, residents, and tourists.

He added that the expansion has the "potential to change the entire region and the Sts'ailes people's way of life forever.

"The commitment that the Berezan Group has shown in working directly with Sts'ailes over the last three years to understand our concerns, interests, and to realize mutually beneficial opportunities," he said. "This participation agreement that we are signing today allows us to be optimistic about the resort expansion—we can take comfort in knowing that our Xa’xa Temexw (sacred Earth) will be looked after according to our beliefs and our standards."

Charlie also acknowledged the active role of the Province in this process.

"In our recently signed MOU (November 1, 2011) with the Province, they committed their support during these negotiations with Berezan, and its successful conclusion is a testament to our ongoing working relationship. This good faith relationship has facilitated a more stream-lined process that is beneficial to everyone involved," he said.

news@ahobserver.com

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