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2020 Urban Systems and Integrated Water Management Whistler Trip

October 9, 2020
UBC MEL in IWME & URSY - Trip 2020

At the end of September, the Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) students in both the Urban Systems and Integrated Water Management cohorts travelled the Sea to Sky Highway, through Squamish, up to Whistler Blackcomb, and then further to Pemberton. This field trip was executed after rigorous safety planning and pandemic precautions taken to minimize risk between students, staff, faculty and the communities visited. Accompanied by MEL faculty and staff, the URSY cohort met numerous industry experts who shared insight into the design and management of unique urban infrastructure and services. The one-day trip involved many informative question and answer periods with our industry hosts while observing their urban facilities.

District of Squamish

At the first stop of the trip, students were introduced to Ben Kineshanko, the Technical Operations Manager for the District of Squamish. Students had the opportunity to see the WWTP and Sewer Utility system and learn more about the facility from Ben.

Discussion revolved around planning for upgrades to accommodate growth in the region, as well as the impacts of developer contributed infrastructure.

Then the URSY and IWME cohorts was brought to the Public Works Yard, which included the Fleet Maintenance Department, Water Utility, Roads and Drainage Department, Parks Department, and a new Public Works Facility in the pre-design stage. Ben stated that the current focus for the departments is on accommodating growth and the impacts of new infrastructure.

Resort Municipality of Whistler & Whistler Blackcomb

In the Municipality of Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb, the URSY and IWME cohorts were introduced to two key urban professionals: Andrew Tucker, Manager of Transport and Waste Management for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and Arthur de Jong, Senior Manager of Planning and Environment at Whistler Blackcomb and Councillor for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

Arthur shared his team’s challenge in city planning when dealing with the threat of forest fires. He then emphasized the city’s sustainability goals.

Arthur shared how his team strives to engage the Whistler community in sustainability efforts. Further, he commented on how vehicle traffic is a limiting factor in reaching their greenhouse gas emissions goals.


The last stop of the trip was in Pemberton where Tom Csima, Manager of Operations and Projects, overviewed the village’s water systems, wastewater treatment plant, and downtown enhancement project. Tom spoke particularly on the challenges of financing emergency projects, which are so essential in a mountainous and remote location.

Visiting the small towns of Squamish and Pemberton was a useful experience for our URSY and IWME cohorts, as students were able to clearly see all of the urban systems processes implemented in a larger city, implemented on a more compact scale.

The field trip allowed students to view first-hand the facilities that allow our villages, towns, and cities to run and thrive. The day was filled by a productive exchange of questions and answers from the current generation of industry leaders in urban systems and water management, to the next.

Interested in taking your career in urban infrastructure or water management to new heights? Explore UBC’s Master of Engineering Leadership in Urban Systems or Integrated Water Management.

Urban Systems

Urban Systems
Gain the high-level technical knowledge and urban planning perspective to design and manage urban infrastructure systems and create more resilient cities.

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Integrated Water Management

Integrated Water Management

Apply your technical and leadership skills in developing sustainable water management solutions.

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