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  • Gayle Baker

Roads, Cycling Lanes, and our Market: Gary Holman Helps Us Navigate Complex Issues

July 10

A total of 18 participants joined us in the United Church Meadow for this week’s ASK Salt Spring gathering on a lovely summer Friday. While one guest had to leave almost immediately after learning that our special guest, Gary Holman, would be late arriving due to a conflict, others seemed content to begin with an update of some outstanding issues while waiting for him. Happily, Gary arrived far earlier than expected - by about 11:15 - so these updates where somewhat truncated.

A) Friday, July 31 is the fifth Friday of July and, as a result of this extra Friday, we have not yet chosen a special quest. Any suggestions?

B) Working on the assumption that use of the Thrifty meeting room may not be an option when the weather chases us indoors (due to the difficulty off social distancing in such a small space as well as air circulation), efforts are underway to locate a larger, more open space to meet in the fall. (A heartfelt Thank-you to Thrifty’s. We will be back!)

Unfortunately, with no income stream, we cannot pay for this space.

After iliminating some of the more obvious options, newest thoughts are to explore the possibility of using one of our local churches - maybe even their sanctuary? Suggestions gratefully welcomed!

C) Adam’s visit last week initiated two conversations:

1. Salt Spring Solutions volunteers are leading a discussion aimed at generating a community-wide advocacy effort to complete the long-delayed Salish Sea Trail, consisting of bike lanes from Fulford to Vesuvius, finally closing the loop connecting Salt Spring to the popular Vancouver Island trail network.

2. As the result of Adam’s questioning provincial requirements for urban standards for our rural roads and pathways, a conversation has begun advocating for the far less expensive rural standard for our roads and pathways.

E) As a result of Emcon’s visit, there are efforts to bring over a water truck to keep down the dust so that our roads could also be swept in dry weather. There is also an effort to bring a compactor from Vancouver Island to better fill potholes, but the forklift to unload this compactor has not yet been identified.

F) Salt Spring will get our centerlines painted this summer. From what we are told, crews are expected to arrive one evening in August, and, by morning, they will be gone, leaving us with freshly-painted centerlines and, hopefully other needed painting, like crosswalks, as well.

We began our conversation with Gary repeating some of the concerns about the danger of biking on Salt Spring and discussion about solutions to this expensive problem. Our newest information is that Ganges Hill will be re-paved next summer from Embe Bakery to Beddis/Charlesworth Roads. Gary spoke of the importance of shoulder bike lanes (MoTI has committed to adding them to this stretch of road when it is repaved) as well as a pedestrian pathway on the uphill side.

Initially informed that this paving project would be completed this summer, it now appears that this will be a summer 2021 project. With this extra time, there is hope that the pathway can be designed and shovel-ready in time to apply for Active Transportation grants, due February, 2021, to fund it. Gary agreed that a key component to the success of this plan for both bike lanes as well as a pedestrian pathway is a closer relationship with MoTI managers, something Gary is working hard to secure.

Initial steps in this direction have been promising, as meetings with our MoTI area manager have been very good and productive. Also, the relationship with Emcon has been excellent. Not only does a real person answer and follow-up on all calls to the Hazard Line, but Andrew, the Emcon Manager, also welcomes emails from Gayle concerning issues. While he gets far more feedback from Salt Spring than any other of his areas of responsibility, he seems to continue to appreciate this single point of contact and the consistent identification of concerns. (Thanks, ASK Salt Spring participants!)

Gary spoke of the possibility of developing an expanded partnership with MoTI by, instead of demanding a level of service that is not funded by the province, partnering financially with MoTI to get improvements in top priority areas such as as signage at dangerous intersections and better road and pedestrian safety markings.

Gary spoke of his disappointment that the Gulf Islands were excluded from the Southern Vancouver Island Transportation Strategy despite a supporting recommendation from the CRD Board. As a result of his efforts to address this oversight, Minister Trevena has committed to convene a meeting with Gulf Island representatives to discuss a long-term transportation strategy.

There was acknowledgment that the North Ganges Transportation Project, Phase Two had finally begun, with workers on the road and orange paint as initial signs of progress. It was also noted that the waterside area across the street that is currently used for selling cars was unsightly, unsafe, and unacceptable for pedestrians. It was suggested that Gary walk this area with MoTI managers and others to seek solutions. At an earlier ASK Salt Spring gathering, Emcon managers had promised to lend support by options such as moving barriers and filling potholes.

The conversations shifted to the Market in the Park. We learned that long-time coordinator, Rob Pingle, has moved to another opportunity, a huge loss to the Market at this critical time. According to Gary, PARC has recommended that the Market, traditionally held on Saturdays, be held on Fridays, at least initially, as a compromise to support venders while limiting our exposure to crowds of visitors.

Currently, it appears that the Market could begin the third week of July, a delay due to the need to hire another coordinator. If more than 50 vendors sign up, it is possible that this market could also be held on Thursdays. Efforts will be made to monitor it consistently and adapt accordingly.

Several wondered why the Market could not be spread out all over Ganges so that buyers would have to opportunity to walk all around our village seeking additional vendors rather having them clustered in Centennial Park. While there seems to be support of this idea, Gary reminded us that its location in Centennial Park was the result of a strong preference by vendors and local merchants.

One wondered why it could not be a Market for Salt Springers rather than merely an attractive magnet for visitors. There was the sentiment that now may be the perfect time to re-evaluate the Market, an important component of Salt Spring’s tourism industry, possibly transitioning towards a focus on year-round, eco-tourism instead.

There was a brief discussion of the Gas Tax funding. Some recent expenditures of this federally-allocated funding stream by the Electoral Districts- most notably the purchase by the Juan de Fuca District of a machine to collect dog poop - has resulted in the Union of British Columbian Municipalities (UBCM), the distributor of these funds, closely-evaluating these expenditures. While it appears that planned use of this funding for the Root, the Salt Spring Farmland Trust’s centre dedicated to education on food security, food safety, and cooking/processing/preserving locally-grown food, will be approved, Gary is still working to get approval to support the implementation for the Climate Action Plan. Having used Gas Tax funds to support the writing of the plan, it seems inconsistent that this same funding source could not be used to implement the resulting plan. Stay tuned. . . .

When asked about the availability of one of many currently-unused portions of PARC land to provide temporary housing to get folks off the street, Gary spoke briefly about this land. (Much of it has been acquired by PARC as the 5% parkland allocation required from a developer before approval of a development.) Years ago, there had been an attempt to sell these small, scattered, parcels of land, generating strong opposition from vocal Salt Springers. To re-allocate any of these parcels for affordable housing, a referendum would be required.

A seemingly-simpler route to designate some land for temporary housing (like the Wagon Wheel’s Conestoga-style HUT exhibited at ASK Salt Spring last week), would be use of some of the currently-unused CRD Drake Road land. While a portion of the five-acre plot is being considered for a project by BC Housing, nothing has been officially announced concerning this possibility. Even with this hoped-for BC Housing project, there may be remaining land in the CRD Drake Road property that could temporarily house some of our inadequately-housed residents.

There were questions from an Early Childcare Educator (ECE) about the two Rainbow Road childcare facilities currently being constructed - one in a portable and the other a permanent addition to the Rainbow Road Pool. (The portable and the permanent addition will be made available for public use in the evenings/weekends when they are not being used to care for children.) This ECE professional noted that the need for childcare is for the younger children - infants and toddlers- rather than preschool children, with an estimated 80 babies born on Salt Spring every year. With plenty of preschool spots for children, (but a serious shortage of ECE teachers), she expressed concern that this new publicly-funded centre would unfairly compete with privately-run local preschools. Gary asked that a meeting be set up so that he could more-thoroughly understand the concerns and seek solutions.

As this ASK Salt Spring gathering drew to a close, a representative of Salt Spring Solutions dropped in briefly to mention work being done to finally complete the Salish Sea Trail, bike lanes from Fulford to Vesuvius. Seeking to coalesce a common vision around this important project, support is being sought from both cyclists as well as those seeking to attract a different group of visitors - eco-tourists - to our island. With Adam already supportive, Salt Spring Solutions volunteers are seeking to unite islanders and our other elected officials to advocate for completion of this long-delayed project.

Gary expressed his support, noting that, while it may seem to be a bit daunting, MoTI had committed to upgrades and bike lanes from Fulford to Ganges as a part of their incorporation offer. From all appearances, MoTI is still moving forward on this commitment, despite the defeat of incorporation - as witnessed by next year’s upgrade (with bike lanes in both directions) - of Ganges Hill.

Gary asked the group how they felt about the United Church Meadow space after PARC (which now manages it under a license of occupation with the Church) had cleared some brush, moved benches and provided garbage bins. The consensus appeared to be positive concerning these changes. Having had a welcome dose of sunshine on this lovely summer day, we thanked Gary for joining us and left - many of us with red noses - to enjoy the weekend, many promising to return next Friday for an ASK Salt Spring gathering from 11-1 welcoming Trustee Laura Patrick.

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