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  • Gayle Baker

Gary Holman Seeks Solutions for Accessibility, Safety, and Lighting Concerns in Ganges

February 14:

Thirteen Islanders came to this ASK Salt Spring session with Gary Holman as our special guest. While most came to ask questions, some came to find out What’s it all about? and stayed to participate in the interesting conversations. The first question focused on one guest’s concerns about the inaccessibility of Ganges for those with disabilities. She had come from Vancouver where access was mandated. She wondered if there was a group on Salt Spring addressing these access issues.

She was told about the Transportation Commission’s Ganges Accessibility and Safety Plan (GASP) and invited to join the working group. While she may not have time to attend meetings, she will receive all information about coming meetings as well as notes from each meeting.

She spoke of the impossibility of shopping at Mouats anywhere but the main (hardware) floor. While she understood accessibility issues for long-standing establishments, she asked if the new Fields would have to adhere to standards for disability access. We told her that Laura Patrick would be at ASK Salt Spring next week and that she could have information about rules for land use changes. Our guest was also given the phone number for Building Inspections (537-2711) to ask about new and renovated building requirements. (On a wry note, it was pointed out that she would not be able to visit Building Inspections as it is up a steep stairway.)

She seemed pleased with the information she had been given and understood that she could always come back or contact ASK Salt Spring if she needed more information. Even though her question had been addressed, she stayed to listen to the questions of others and participate in the conversations.

We paused a few moments to celebrate the signing of the lease for the space for the laundromat at noon. Wagon Wheel volunteers were acknowledged for all their hard work to, at long last, get Salt Spring its desperately-needed laundromat.

Molly, co-chair of the Caregivers’ Support Group, meeting each Wednesday from 11-noon in the Senior’s Centre, came to give ASK Salt Spring acknowledgment as well as reminding us that everyone is welcome to the support group. Although quite well advertised already, Molly was pleased with the suggestion of placing posters in the doctors’ waiting rooms, with the theory that bored patients waiting for their appointment are very likely to read them.

We spoke briefly about getting signs to guide folks to the Visitors’ Centre. Pender Island has signs guiding visitors every step of the way; Jessica wondered why we couldn’t do so as well. Gary suggested that she call Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) and begin the process of getting permission. Funding is a next step. ASK Salt Spring volunteers offered to help seek funding if BC Tourism would not pay for them.

Concern was raised about the recent vandalism. Worry was expressed that Salt Springers might incorrectly assume that it had been done by our resident inadequately-homed population. While no one knows who is vandalizing the Centennial restrooms, we were told about less law-abiding, transients who are causing concern. In the past, our long-time inadequately-homed residents have been able to guide newcomers about the rules of behavior, including a prohibition against hard drugs, the importance of following accepted rules of behaviour, and cleaning up rather than littering. Concern was expressed that this new group of transients was ignoring these rules. They are worrying and frightening our long-time inadequately-homed community who have expressed fear of being hurt while trying to get these newcomers to follow rules.

This began a long discussion about the need - despite the defeat of the Safety Initiative - for outreach to support our inadequately-homed population as well as monitoring and enforcing bylaws. Is the fact that the Community Services’ shelter now open year-round attracting even more who are inadequately-homed? Is Salt Spring becoming the California of Canada? Should we have to support Canadians from other provinces? Does Salt Spring attract an unsavory element due to its reputation for kindness, empathy, and very little bylaw enforcement?

There were no answers to these questions and many concluded that it was a Canadian and Provincial problem that could not be solved at a local level. As a free-access nation, Salt Springers cannot stop folks from coming to our lovely island. Most seemed to conclude that, until answers are found at higher governmental levels, we, as a community, must do our best to support, help, and monitor those who are here.

Closing the restrooms at Centennial may be a short-term solution, but it does not address the need for this basic service. It was expressed that closing the restroom would only force them to use other less palatable spots in our village. Concerning garbage, Gary said that he had thought of a dumpster - but would that encourage everyone to dump their household garbage there as well?

The need for better mental health services was cited. We talked about the Salt Spring Health Advancement Network (SSHAN), and Gary suggested that co-chair David Norget be invited to an upcoming ASK Salt Spring session to discuss mental health issues on Ganges and gaps in this service. Gary offered to share his time at ASK Salt Spring with David.

So - no conclusions were made concerning vandalism, garbage, folks living in campers in Ganges, and a suspected growing use of hard drugs. Most concluded that one solution might be to establish a place for our inadequately-homed during the day so that they do not need to be moving about always seeking quiet, warmth, facilities, and community.

Gary is planning to reconvene the task force, including RCMP, business owners, community groups, and mental health experts. He also stated that, before he moves forward with any solutions, another group would need to give him a proposal and take the lead in its adoption and implementation. He simply cannot be left standing alone trying to address this issue again.

We then listened to two newcomers, neither of whom have been able to get a doctor for themselves and their families. When it was suggested that they use Lady Minto Hospital until they found a doctor, one newcomer told us how she and her family had been refused service recently at Lady Minto, told that this was not the place for routine medical needs and to leave. We talked briefly of the provincial plan to create Primary Care Networks (a team-based approach) and the challenges establishing them due to a lack of acceptance by doctors.

One guest came in wondering about composting. She told us that many on Salt Spring do not compost for a variety of reasons including no garden in which to use the compost, inconvenience when living in multiple-residence facilities, rats, and difficulty due to age. We learned that the Salt Spring Island Foundation’s Shaw Grant ($100.000) was given to Community Services to create a composing centre at the Burgoyne Valley Community Farm. But, that they had run into a glitch: It seems that they need new zoning from Islands Trust due to the fact that they will be selling soil and other resulting products from composting. Folks are not happy about this requirements, and the project is currently as a standstill. It was suggested that this guest come to ASK Salt Spring next week to ask Laura about the status of this composting centre.

Assuming this Community Services composing service is established eventually, Burgoyne Valley is quite a distance for folks to travel to deposit their compost. To drive that distance to deliver compost seemed somewhat ecologically-inappropriate. What about a service to collect compost and deliver it in bulk to Burgoyne Valley? Maybe the Recycle Centre and/or Lauries would be interested in becoming a drop-off centre?

Our guest was told about the low interest loans through Transitions Salt Spring if she were interested in creating a business to address compost. Volunteers also offered to help her write a Van City funding application for up to $10,000. (Van City strongly supports the establishment of green businesses.) Gary shared this article: (Pat McMahon:

Safety road markings were brought up again - and there was consensus throughout the room (a rare thing on Salt Spring!) that paint was desperately-needed, but that our dark, winding, narrow, and often wet roads need more than the typical water-based paint that washes away so quickly. The idea of better road safety markings was eagerly supported.

The poor lighting in Ganges was discussed. We learned that CRD, in partnership with BC Hydro, has a responsibility for street lighting. While BC Hydro maintains the lights, CRD pays the operational costs. According to some, many lights are non-functional. Several offered to note lights that are not working when they see them but wondered if a Transportation Commissioner would be interested in walking Ganges at night to identify them. Commissioners will be asked if anyone is interested in monitoring this.

This session ended with acknowledgment for ASK Salt Spring. It was expressed that it was developing into an important service for islanders as well as simply a good place to listen and learn every Friday

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