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Proposed Refugio Frey Change.org Petition

Note:  This is a translation of a Change.org petition originally posted here.

After spending over a month at the Frey (located near Bariloche, Argentina), and making some of the best memories and friends of my year-plus-long trip in South America, I wanted to translate this petition so that all the non-Spanish-speaking friends who also want to see the Frey protected (but accessible in a sustainable way) could get visibility to the “progress” that the Bariloche-based Club Andino is proposing.

Supporting this petition means that the CAB and the National Parks administration will consider your dissent as one more voice in support of sustainable development for this precious and fragile landscape. As of December 15, 2015, both organizations announced that increased public interest will be a factor in how they approach the next phase of this project.

So read through it, and support the petition here. The next CAB meeting is Tuesday, December 12, so your voice is needed!


Refugio Frey Photo Credit Loreah Winlow

Report and proposals on the meeting of December 1, 2015 in the Club Andino Bariloche (CAB) about Refugio Frey Expansion

Meeting Overview & Observations

In the Club Andino Bariloche (CAB’s) most recent meeting discussing proposed expansion of Refugio Frey, public consensus emerged on the need to evaluate and act on the area’s environmental problems–before expanding the existing infrastructure.

Current environmental concerns (raised by the local activists and climbing community) include the following issues:

  • Sewage treatment
  • Garbage removal and decades’ worth of accumulated material
  • Management and control of the camping area
  • Trail erosion (due largely to horse access)
  • Drinkable water (and water resources to run the electric turbine during summer)
  • Capacity issues (specifically, the need to establish overnight quotas so as not to stress either camping or Refugio resources).

Public opinion views the CAB’s proposed building expansion as a band-aid to capacity issues, and while it not only does not solve any of the aforementioned problems, the expansion may even aggravate them.

The CAB did consider other designs—such as those proposed by a former Refugio worker and another by current worker—but it has not posted an open call for proposals, or invited the participation of other local architects. Meeting attendees agree that the Refugio Frey deserves a call for proposals at the local level in the hopes that existing environmental concerns will be taken into account. During the meeting (attended by about 60 people), there was not one voice in support of the proposed CAB architectural expansion. Certainly, this sole design is not garnering public support.

In its defense, CAB authorities posed that driving forward the project as quickly as possible is critical, since the economy’s rapid rate of inflation is quickly eroding available construction funds. Nevertheless, critics responded that eroding funds still do not provide sufficient rationale for premature construction—particularly in such an iconic landscape.

Conclusions

  • Neither an environmental assessment nor environmental management plan exists.
  • The proposed construction process will not follow any framework for environmental sustainability.
  • Per the current proposal, the camping area would remain “wild,” with no management, infrastructure, or systems to ensure its sustainable administration.
  • No study has yet been conducted to determine the environmental carrying capacity of the Frey.
  • There is neither a trail maintenance nor trail erosion mitigation plan.
  • Although the design process took into account some individuals’ experiences, it was by no means open and participatory.

Proposals

  • Conduct an inclusive diagnosis on the area’s problems, replacing existing studies and identifying potential solutions over a term of no more than six (?) weeks
  • Develop a general management plan for the area that defines operating and monitoring criteria
  • Use the CAB’s original design as a basis for proposals to develop criteria for sustainability and identity that will drive a project garnering consensus and community acceptance.

We are ready to work with the CAB to drive forward these proposals. We understand the need to establish a timetable that does not preclude the use of financial resources that CAB has already obtained.

Therefore, we intend to move immediately, agreeing upon progressive goals towards environmental protection and respect for the heritage, value, and identity of Refugio Frey.

Refugio Frey Night Photo Credit Loreah Winlow

 


Want to learn more about Refugio Frey? Check out some of these links below.

And because winter is here in North America, get stoked on the Frey’s couloirs in the winter:

Ski touring: Refugio Frey from Erlend Bremnes on Vimeo.

 

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