HarbourWalk and Better BC Ferries Service. . . Progress in the Near Future?
Only 11 came to this ASK Salt Spring gathering welcoming all three CRD candidates, Jesse Brown, Kylie Coates, and incumbent Gary Holman. Was it our new location? Maybe the lovely sunny day was too tempting for too many? Or - had folks already decided how to cast their vote for our next Electoral Director?
Despite the low numbers, our time together touched a variety of our most important issues, and participants had plenty of questions to fill the time :). After our Territorial Acknowledgement, each candidate began by telling us a bit about themselves and why they thought that they would be the best choice as our next Electoral Director.
Jesse began by speaking of his personal values of kindness, hard work, and financial responsibility that will guide his actions as Director. He highlighted his roots on Salt Spring, beginning with his grandmother, his many happy months spent here over the years, and his most recent work as former executive director of our Chamber as well as coordinating CRD’s Economic Sustainability Commission. His focus, if elected, will be to support our working families and keep Salt Spring vibrant.
Kylie also spoke of his deep Salt Spring roots, reminding us that, not only had he attended the Middle School where we were gathered, but that he had also been born and raised here. Understanding Salt Spring from both his memories as a youth as well as his current perspective as an adult, he believes that, if he is elected, he can bring needed new energy (in his words, a head shake) to our complex issues, especially water, housing, and a rundown Ganges -
Gary spoke of some of the CRD accomplishments during this past term, stating that he wanted to continue to contribute to this progress:
120 units of affordable housing completed or in progress;
Successful approval of a new firehall - in his opinion, our most critical emergency need - helped by $1 million of CRD Community Works (gas tax) funding;
Acquisition of the current firehall for community use for $1;
Lease of 25,000 square feet of the Middle School for Emergency Programs as well as below market rental to a wide variety of nonprofits (including ASK Salt Spring);
Expansion of our bus system, initiated by Gary in 2008; and
Construction of many kilometers of pathways and sidewalks.
We then transitioned to the future by welcoming participant’s questions about our three candidates’ visions for Salt Spring’s future. But, not before a moment of levity when it was pointed out that Gary, criticized by some as being a newcomer, was already a Salt Springer when Kylie was born.
When a participant asked Kylie what he would bring if elected, he spoke about his long history of volunteering and passion for creative, small houses. He told us of his volunteer work bringing 400 Syrian refugees to Victoria and his pleasure watching them acquire homes and jobs while also retaining their culture. Years later he still enjoys spending time with them. If homes could be found in Victoria, he asked why it seems so hard on Salt Spring. A proud builder of Conestoga Huts, already housing 30 in Vernon and three in Victoria, he wonders why Salt Springers, leaders in such creative innovations, seem to find it so hard to use these innovations to solve their own housing shortages.
When Jesse was asked what he would bring to the job of Electoral Director, we learned about his leadership skills as a not-for-profit and business professional hired to rebuild and rebrand organizations. He was then spurred into political action in 2019 in opposition to the Trans-Mountain Pipeline purchase and the massive increase in oil tankers journeying up and down the Salish Sea. It is Jesse’s assessment that fighting the fight against climate change and the oil and gas industry is hard. He believes that the most important thing we can do is to not give up hope and continue to encourage young people through leading by example.
When Gary was asked how he could address governance were he elected and the Local Community Commission failed, he responded that he would continue convening public budget meetings, regularly convene the newly-initiated Interagency Working Group, and continue to attend the monthly Islands Trust Town Hall. He would also explore offering regular CRD-Trust Town Halls.
A participant wondered why the HarbourWalk has not been completed. Kylie began by focusing on the Cudmore Gap, a small area near Rotary Park whose owners have refused to allow required foreshore public access. In Kylie’s opinion, the Cudmore’s were given a handshake agreement for additional densities that was subsequently denied. It is Kylie’s opinion that this agreement should be honoured. He also believes that, to be a successful Electoral Director, he/she must work effectively with the handful of leaders in our community who have the power to get things done.
Jesse agreed that the HarbourWalk should be finally completed after decades of failure, reminding us that it would not only be a tourist benefit but would also offer a much-needed amenity for all Salt Springers.
Gary explained some of the history of the long-delayed HarbourWalk as he saw it: After years of controversy concerning upland zoning, the Trustees finally took a different tack: As the lease for the Ganges Marina was up for renewal, they requested a right of way (RoW) for the Harbourwalk from the Province (Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources, and Rural Development) as a requirement for the marina’s lease renewal. After several meetings with both the province and the Ganges Marina owners, the province finally agreed to require public access as long as the designs for this HarbourWalk did not interfere with the marina's riparian rights.
Former Electoral Director, Wayne McIntyre, had already allocated funding for these required designs, and Gary hopes that they will be completed in 2023 so that grants can be submitted and funding drives initiated to get this HarbourWalk built.
With everything finally in place, why the delay getting these plans done? Gary reminded us of the many responsibilities of PARC, even including opportunities not on its Strategic Plan like the Middle School, acquisition of there current firehall, and successful (!!!) acquisition of 75 acres near the Mt. Maxwell watershed: (https://saltspringexchange.com/2022/10/12/hwmetutsum-mt-maxwell-forest-protection-assured-as-community-park-fundraising-campaign-reaches-goal/).
If the Ganges Marina were put on the market, would CRD be in the position to acquire it? While Kylie offered an enthusiastic Yes!, Jesse told us that he would need to know more, and Gary, while open to the possibility, reminded us that it would likely require borrowing, necessitating another referendum.
The last 45 minutes of our time together was focused on BC Ferries, spurred by an enthusiastic participant and advocate for BC Ferries changes. Early in this conversation, Jesse excused himself, aware that the last day of campaigning was well underway and opportunities to secure more votes awaited, leaving Kylie and Gary to offer their opinion about their preferred solutions to BC Ferries concerns. (BC Ferries managers will be ASK Salt Spring’s special guests Friday, November 25, 11-1, in the Lobby of the Middle School.)
We learned that BC Ferries recently submitted a proposal to the Ferry Commissioner that would add two hybrid ferries to the Vesuvius-Crofton Route 6 in 2026 and would also add a second ferry in the summer to the Fulford Route 4 by 2027: (https://www.chemainusvalleycourier.ca/news/two-ferry-service-coming-to-crofton-vesuvius-route-by-2026.
Kylie lamented his conclusion that BC Ferries does not ask its employees for solutions to challenges. He is very concerned about the danger of Fulford Hill as cars clog the road waiting for the ferry, making it unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike. He is also saddened that this regular traffic jam severely-impacts Fulford Village, making it impossible for anyone to simply enjoy wandering our quaint village.
As Kylie is convinced that adding an extra lane would be prohibitively-expensive, he believes that the only solution to this near-constant traffic jam is to expand the parking lot to accommodate waiting vehicles. While it now provides parking for between 45-60 cars, Kyle believes 150 spaces are needed. We learned from him that the current parking area was created by filling in a portion of the harbour and that expansion should be seriously-considered as the only realistic solution. He also told us that the septic tank for the washrooms is under this parking area and that - after being there since the 1970s - maintenance of these tanks may be imminent. In Kylie’s opinion, expansion of the current parking should be done when the parking area is torn up for this deferred septic tank maintenance.
Addressing the clear and present danger of Fulford Hill is a very high priority for Kylie if he is elected. In his opinion, BC Ferries served us well from the 1950s through the 1970s, but by the 1980s, decades of neglect of our terminals has made work on them imperative.
While Gary does not necessarily oppose exploration of filling in a portion of Fulford Harbour, he reminded us of the daunting archeological and environmental challenges of this option. He stated that the addition of a second Fulford ferry would decant the parking lot each hour rather than every other hour and would significantly-decrease the number of cars clogging the road while waiting for the ferry,
Gary also has hopes for possible solutions in the soon-to-be released Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) Active Transportation safety study, focused on roads to the three ferry terminals. He plans to participate in a working group composed of CRD Transportation Commission, BC Ferries, MoTI, and Fulford Water District to further explore implementation of pedestrian-safety options, possibly concurrent with replacement of water lines on the uphill side of the road.
A participant reminded us that there were also serious ferry concerns at Vesuvius, lamenting how long it has taken to make it clear that waiting cars cannot block private driveways, struggles getting a port-a-potty that is open throughout the day and evening, getting something as seemingly-simple as an insta-cam on top of the ticket booth, and addressing the annoyance of those Dangerous Cargo Only (DCO) runs in the middle of the day. Gary indicated that the SSI Ferry Advisory Committee had been urging BC Ferries to allow commercial traffic on DCO runs and that the corporation is seriously studying that possibility.
As 1:00 approached, Gary reminded us that, if we wanted to be successful with BC Ferries, we had to advocate as a united Salt Spring front and that BC Ferries' proposal to the Commissioner presented an ideal opportunity for the FAC, locally elected officials, and other community advocates to work together. Together, he believes that we will be successful. Kylie concluded by saying that, while he may have been critical of the Electoral Director during this campaign, he has thoroughly enjoying getting to know Gary as an individual. Having enjoyed his time at ASK Salt Spring, he left with an even greater appreciation of Gary.
On that note, we bid farewell to our candidates, wishing them well, appreciative of their willingness to be our next Electoral Director, commitment to a Salt Spring that is the best that it can be, and the time they took out of this last day of campaigning to be with us. (Thanks Gary, Kylie, and Jesse!)
Election 2022: Where to From Here? Please join us for a conversation about Salt Spring’s future this Friday, November 21, 11-1, in the Lobby of the Middle School.
What would you like to discuss?
On what issues would you like to see Islands Trustees Laura and Jamie focus their attention in the next four years?
On what issues would you like to see CRD’s Gary Holman focus his attention in the next four years?
So - now that a Local Community Commission has been decisively-approved, what’s next?
And. . . . ?
Please join us this Friday, October 21 for a rich conversation about Salt Spring’s future. Remember: the Middle School Lobby!
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