Only seven joined this ASK Salt Spring conversation - which was good as it indicated that we did a pretty good job letting folks know that our special guest for this week, MLA Adam Olsen, was not able to join us. Those who came seemed pleased with the BYOC concept: Bring Your Own Conversation. As a result, topics were somewhat random, and the conversation meandered to unexpected spots.
After our Territorial Acknowledgement, the first question concerned the HarbourWalk. A CRD project, a HarbourWalk Steering Committee, reporting to the PARC Commission, recently approved the release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the design and community consultation of our long-awaited HarbourWalk. At this meeting, this committee also approved including the design and consultation for a pathway along the harbourside of Lower Ganges Road in the RFP.
Expected by late January, it was unclear when this RFP will be tendered. This delay was a concern to a few participants who were familiar with the generous provincial Active Transportation Infrastructure grant opportunities, generally due in late October. As the funding to build this HarbourWalk has not yet been identified, it only makes sense to immediately confirm the eligibility of the HarbourWalk for this funding stream. If it is eligible, it is hoped that deadlines for this RFP will insure that shovel-ready designs are be ready in time to apply for this fall funding opportunity.
In addition to this CRD Steering Committee, a group of HarbourWalk enthusiasts with leadership from our Chamber of Commerce, has recently formed, committed to at long last getting this HarbourWalk completed (https://www.gangesharbourwalk.com/).
These enthusiasts strongly maintain that these HarbourWalk designs should extend to Moby’s/Salt Spring Marina; CRD staff maintain just as strongly that, for now, the designs should end at the currently unimproved area known to many as Peck’s Park, just south of the intersection of Upper and Lower Ganges Roads. CRD staff reasoning is that taxpayers should not pay for these designs: A condition of the renewal of the adjacent Salt Spring Marina's foreshore lease was to both design and build this portion of the HarbourWalk. Additionally, the interests and role of the waterfront property owner at the intersection of Upper and Lower Ganges Roads have not yet been identified.
A compromise to these differing options was agreed upon at this December CRD HarbourWalk Steering Committee meeting: the RFP would be identified as Phase One of the project and require a design with a seamless connection to the eventual extension to Moby’s. Want to know more? You may want to read the January 20 ASK Salt Spring report when HarbourWalk enthusiasts were our special guests: https://www.saltspringcommunityalliance.org/post/will-salt-spring-finally-get-its-long-awaited-harbourwalk).
The conversation shifted to bike lanes:
Why is it so hard to get bike lanes - or even well-maintained shoulders - in our community.
Why is Salt Spring the only gap in the amazing Vancouver Islands Salish SeaTrail (https://transitionsaltspring.com/lets-bring-safe-cycling-back-to-salt-spring-finish-the-salish-sea-trail-network/)?
Good questions; Not simple answers. . . . Some bike lanes have been built in Ganges as part of the North Ganges Transportation Plan, but the reality is that our roads are owned by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) which does not prioritize bike lanes. MoTI does provide some funding for bike lanes, and Salt Spring has received some of this funding, but the larger grants for bike lanes generally go to the more heavily-populated areas; Salt Spring seldom competes well against Victoria and other larg municipalities in theses usage statistics.
Another reality is that infrastructure grants generally require shovel-ready designs. Those shovel-ready designs on Fulford-Ganges Road from Cranberry Road to Fulford have not yet been produced; nor have they been produced along Vesuvius Bay Road.
To address this, an advocacy group, the Salish Sea Trail Network Working Group, has been meeting for over a year to do the work needed to finally get bike lanes from Fulford to Vesuvius. This Working Groups is comprised of:
MLA Adam Olsen and staff;
A representative for Elizabeth May;
CRD’s Gary Holman;
Islands Trust staff;
A Transportation Commissioner;
Representatives of Island Pathways’ Cycling Salt Spring Committee; and, whenever possible,
A MoTI representative.
Their daunting task is to develop a strategy and politically advocate for the completion of the Salish Sea Trail. They must also make sure that the shovel ready designs required for grant opportunities are prepared. This group may also develop a plan to solicit donations of the small slices of land needed from adjacent landowners while also rewarding them for their generosity.
These tasks will soon be made easier with the imminent release of a MoTI detailed study of the route with ownership and survey information. This Salish Sea Trail project will also benefit from a cycling safety study, also commissioned by MoTI, as well as the completion of Island Pathways’ federally-funded $50,000 grant. Want to learn more? Cycling enthusiasts were ASK Salt Spring’s special guests last week, January 27:(https://www.saltspringcommunityalliance.org/post/how-can-you-help-cyclists-advocate-for-a-safer-salt-spring).
While awaiting the needed cycling infrastructure, why are our few bike lanes, shoulders, and even our roads not better maintained? A participant spoke of her concerns about roadway potholes and rough patches. In her opinion, these road hazards threaten pedestrians and cyclists when motorists swerved to miss them. An issue for our road maintenance contractor, Emcon, she was advised to call the Emcon Hazard Line (866-353-3136). We learned that this Hazard Line works! Participants lauded Emcon for their swift action addressing reported hazards.
In rebuttal, a participant then asked, if Emcon was doing such a great job, why are our shoulders dangerous with debris? Why don’t they sweep our shoulders more often? How often that question has been asked! The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) contract defines sweeping responsibilities. While bike lanes must be swept three times a year, our shoulders only require one sweeping a year, May 15 for major roads and June 15 for minor roads. The contract does include this caveat: However, debris that is unsafe, or has the potential to be unsafe, must be cleared immediately.
Emcon managers totally-understand our need for more frequent sweepings than required by their contract, even acquiring the needed equipment to sweep more frequently. Unfortunately, Emcon crews are also fully-utilized addressing other important road maintenance issues, leaving little latitude for projects not required by their contract.
An option might be to advocate with MoTI to require - and fund - more frequent sweepings. MLA Adam Olsen has committed to have this conversation with MoTi’s Minister Fleming when they next meet. Another option may be to join the Adopt a Highway program for our most dangerous stretches: (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/transportation-environment/adopt-a-highway). Eager volunteers are exploring this option.
(NOTE: After this ASK Salt Spring gathering, Andrew Gaetz, Emcon Operations Manager, sent me this message: I understand with the mild weather everyone is antsy to get out on their bicycles and other forms of active transportation. We will be commencing our annual sweep likely by the end of February/early March if the weather continues with this warm trend. We try and plan our sweep at the foreseeable end of winter so that it is not counter productive if we need to sand an icy/snowy Road.
Our equipment is currently getting a thorough once over in the shop so it is in good working condition and ready for the season.
Your comments are heard, and we will do our best to incorporate some additional sweeping on main routes through the summer months in between other planned maintenance activities.)
And, what about our too-high speed limits? Wouldn’t all be safer if vehicles slowed down? The Transportation Commission has long been advocating for lower speed limits and the soon-to-be-released Ganges Active Transportation Study may also recommend lower speed limits. However, not unexpectedly, this conversation led a participant to ask Why not just incorporate?
While different participants would have had a different response, those at this ASK Salt Spring gathering proceeded to talk about the visionaries 50 years ago who, determined to protect the Gulf Islands from rampant development, created the Islands Trust. However one may feel about the Islands Trust today, the plan was to separate the funding of services from land use decisions. Different from municipalities where development decisions are often linked to finances, the theory was that these land use decisions should, instead, focus on preserving and protecting our islands. More than the fears of taking over the liability for deferred road maintenance, these ASK Salt Spring participants maintained that the core reason for not incorporating was to maintain that separation between a community’s financial needs and its development decisions.
Now. . . .had there been different participants at this ASK Salt Spring gathering,
this conversation might have been entirely different :).
Riffing off this frustration with not getting the quality of roads enjoyed by other communities, we discussed the dilemma so many Salt Springers face, consciously or unconsciously: While some were born and raised here, so many of us fell in love with this rural island, charmed by its winding lanes, forested expanses, and quaint - even funky - buildings. But, now, many can focus only on the condition of these winding, narrow roads, longing for smooth surfaces and plentiful safe options for cyclists and pedestrians. Many lament, Why are our roads narrow and potholed when other communities have smooth, well-painted byways?
While no one on this ASK Salt Spring gathering could predict the outcome of this dilemma, it was agreed that we would be more effective advocating with the province if we were clearer about our priorities rather than repeatedly demanding a daunting array of needs. Interestingly, we were not in agreement about one thing:
Some felt we should increase our demands for what we need;
While agreeing that we should work hard to get our prioritized needs met, others felt that we should also figure out how to work together as a community to accomplish what we need without expecting our government to do everything. . . and being repeatedly disappointed.
An interesting question with no apparent answer, we left struck by the very real question that emerged: Do we want to retain our rural character or are wide, straight, well-maintained roads with bike lanes the key to our happiness?
Is there that perfect compromise somewhere?
Remember though, that this conversation represents a very small slice of Salt Springers. Want to join the conversation? Every Friday, 11-1, Middle School Lobby :).
Please join us next Friday, February 10, 11-1, in the Middle School Lobby, to welcome the Lookout Society, the newest player in our supportive housing efforts: (https://lookoutsociety.ca/). Joining us will be CEO Shayne Williams as well as Lee King, Vancouver Islands Director of Operations.
What would you like to ask them?
What are your immediate plans for Salt Spring?
What attracted you to Salt Spring?
What are your more long term goals for Salt Spring?
What do you see as the challenges you will face on Salt Spring?
How do you plan to address these challenges?
What do you see as the opportunities you will encounter on Salt Spring?
How do you plan to use these opportunities to make a positive difference on Salt Spring?
Please join us Friday, February 10. 11-1, to welcome Shayne and Lee!
ASK Salt Spring now has ongoing funding! A heartfelt THANK-YOU to the Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA) and its Executive Director, Peter Allen !!!
***New fundraising option***
You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230.
Any question, anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings and
monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings?
Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.
We love your receipts! Remember: #15
Our Partners. . . .
Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA), Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards and Island Savings’ Simple Generosity grant.
A heartfelt Thank-You!