CHASE - Residents who packed the village hall Tuesday described Chase Canyon as pristine and spiritual, qualities they say will be lost if an amusement ride is permitted.
A trio of young Kamloops businessmen appeared at a public hearing to showcase their zipline proposal - cables strung over Chase Creek allowing guests to ride down the line above the tree canopy with a landing at a highway rest stop.
One of them, Ron Betts, acknowledged to the 50 people crammed in the hall - what Mayor Harry Danyluk called the biggest public hearing in at least 12 years - that the proposal is "polarizing."
Many in the business community spoke out in favour Tuesday. Many other residents said it will commercialize a special place that includes waterfalls.
But Betts said the proposal has passed an environmental study, will provide economic development, and trail access will be improved to the canyon for residents.
"Our goal is to operate a viable business, long-term. We want that business in no way to interrupt public enjoyment of the land."
But that's exactly what some residents fear.
"The tree canopy would have a 13 by 13 (metre) swath cut through it," said Mary Porter.
Another resident, Sandra Miller, complained ,"It will be for thrill seekers" rather than families.
"How much repeat business are we looking at? I'm worried about sustainability."
Leo Lenglet said he doesn't oppose the business but is concerned about shutting down the only rest stop on the Trans-Canada Highway between Kamloops and Craigellachie to the east and Merritt to the south.
"Between Merritt and Craigellachie is a long time to wait."
The rest stop, available to eastbound traffic, would be closed by the Ministry of Transportation and used as a landing area for the zipline.
But others argued in favour of rezoning for the zipline, which will include a business office and training line behind the arena in downtown Chase. The ride itself consists of two lines above the creek at the foot of Jade Mountain and is projected to see about 7,000 guests between May and October.
"From my side I think the idea is great for what they want to do for Chase," said businessman Vic Endean.
Wayne Quinn, a chiropractor and vice-president of the Chase chamber of commerce, said small towns are dying continent-wide due in part to a lack of jobs for young people.
"If we don't approve this we'll lose more residents," he said. "It's about as green an industry as we'll get.
Chase council put off making a decision on rezoning until after a public open house by proponents March 1 at the community hall. It will make its decision at the March 8 public hearing.
The idea originated as a business plan submitted for a contest by Matthew Lepp and Daniel Ruzic. They later partnered with another Kamloops businessman, Betts. Together the three joined with Kevin Smith, an experienced ride builder who lives in Whistler.
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