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  • Gayle Baker

What Do You Think We Should Do to Put That "Zing" Back in Ganges?

June 11

Ten gathered in the United Church Meadow, delighted to again be in-person despite the threatened rain. We welcomed our Chamber’s new leadership, Executive Director Jesse Brown and President Darryl Martin. After Jesse offered a touching Territorial Acknowledgement, Darryl gave us an update as well as sharing some of his hopes for the Chamber. He began by acknowledging that many who normally participate in ASK Salt Spring were in Victoria supporting our old growth forests. We all wished them well, recognizing that all our forests are replenishing on so many levels as well as important drivers of our economy. And, that we all must work together to seek solutions to address this complex issue.

Darryl reminded us of our Centennial Park concerns last year, hopeful that a combination of factors will not see a repeat of these concerns this summer. He cited our new RCMP sergeant, Clive Seabrook, as an important factor in addressing issues with kindness and intelligence rather than simply an authoritarian stance. Darryl also told us of a webcam facing the park which, in its early stages, seems to be moderating some of last year’s anti-social behaviours.

Before handing the (proverbial) microphone to Jesse, Darryl spoke of the erroneous assumption that our Chamber represents big businesses; on Salt Spring, the Chamber’s approximately 250 members are our neighbors, individuals who began a business to support themselves and their families in addition to filling a need in our community.

Jesse told us about a grant the Chamber received from the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET:, a result of our newly-secured rural status. The focus of this ICET grant is to bring the vibrancy back into Ganges. The individual hired for this project is expected to reach out to Salt Springers to identify ways to bring back that zing to our village. Plans are for this new Chamber employee to develop teams of volunteers to take the lead to implement the selected revitalizing projects. (Interested? Stay tuned or, even better, contact Jesse: Jesse also discussed another funding opportunity through ICET for downtown revitalization (up to $50,000) and welcomed ideas from participants.

One participant began with concern about dusty, gravely streets and sidewalks/pathways that are debris-filled. It was then that we learned some almost-forgotten history. . . .How many of you remember the monks from the since-closed monastery on Mt. Tuam who came to town in their habits regularly to clean litter and debris off our streets. . . out of kindness and because no one else was doing it? What about bringing our village back - through that kindness as well as our own labour?

Jesse told us of the generous CRD purchase of a garbage can near the Visitors’ Centre. Unfortunately, it has fallen to the Chamber to regularly empty it. He acknowledged Chamber member John Hobbs for the unappealing task of regularly emptying its contents.

We switched gears when Jesse told us that, when helping to empty that garbage can, needles were found. He asked us if we knew where there were safe needle disposal receptacles. While some were identified in public bathrooms, like the Library, the conversation quickly focused on drug usage on Salt Spring. We heard again that an unintended consequence of the border closing was the inability for individuals to access a safer supply of street drugs that do not contain fentanyl. Many of us were surprised to learn from a participant that very dangerous, low-grade fentanyl may be being produced on Salt Spring. According to one participant, tragic deaths were resulting from this poison concoction, taking Salt Springers from us well before their time.

Decriminalization of drug use is on the Green platform. While the Chamber has not yet discussed this, Darryl asked us if we thought that the Chamber should take a more active advocacy role on this initiative. It was suggested that joining with other Chambers might be more effective. We learned that there are provincial and federal chamber organizations (BC Chamber and Canadian Chamber) that could be helpful in persuading politicians. While our Chamber is only a member of the federal organization, they could join the provincial organization if it is decided that our Chamber should adopt this and other advocacy issues.

When one participant posited that Swansons Pond, a three-acre plot near our high school with an approved density of 33 living units, could become a focus of activity for our community, we soon realized that none of us knew enough about this acreage to discuss its potential with any wisdom. (Note: If you are interested in learning more, please check out the many articles on the internet.)

But, a participant did know quite a bit about affordable housing options. We learned about the negotiations with Islands Trust when Murakami Gardens, once an abandoned concrete block fish plant, was proposed. With inadequate space for the required number of parking spaces, it was finally agreed to add a legally-binding requirement to the rental agreement that, except in rare occasions of proven need, renters cannot own vehicles. It was this successful negotiation with Islands Trust which allowed the 27-unit Murakami Gardens to proceed, now home to many Salt Spring working individuals and families.

While Jesse and Darryl answered our questions, they also spent much of our time together reaching out to find out what we would like to see the Chamber do to put that zing back into our village.

We went around the circle, and each shared their highest priorities:

- High on the list was the disappointment that we still do not get to fully-enjoy our lovely waterfront setting. Why, oh why is it taking us so very long to move forward with our long-awaited HarbourWalk? While we learned that PARC placed getting the engineered designs needed to move forward high on their priority list some months ago, it is not clear if this important next step is proceeding as hoped.

- It was widely-agreed that Ganges is not pedestrian-friendly enough. While a pedestrian-friendly, car-free ,village may be the long term goal of some, we were also reminded that our village is our service centre; and carrying heavy purchases some distance is not likely to work for all. While recently-tried with disappointing results, it was asked how hard it would be to close the spur of Fulford-Ganges Road along Centennial Park during the Saturday Market.

- Agreeing that a car-free village brings its own challenges, revisiting the idea of outlying parking during market days served by a shuttle seemed worthy of re-exploration once we are fully open again.

- One participant’s vision for a vibrant Ganges included a studio-based community art centre in the Middle School. While he will pursue this idea, initial information seems to indicate that competition for this space will be high, possibly resulting in rental prices that are too pricy for such a grassroots initiative.

- What about engaging our youth? In other communities, youth are engaged in development decisions, called Community Youth Development. (While there are many articles about this process, you may want to begin with this: participant asked why we do not do this on Salt Spring. It was also asked whether Junior Achievement programs still exist. (They do: Would this be a good program for the Chamber to explore?

- Love those benches that are appearing. Keep ‘em coming.

- We live in a verdant environment. Why is Ganges so barren? We need more landscaping, trees, and hanging baskets to make our village more welcoming.

- What about Adam Olsen’s idea of artist-designed signs reminding all that we live on a rural island and to slow down?

- Can you do something more interesting than simply replacing the metal banner pole in front of the firehall that tumbled? What about a garden, a bench, or???

- Whatever happened to all our summer festivals? Will any of them return when we open up again?

As we were getting ready to bid farewell to our Chamber leaders, expressing our appreciation and acknowledgement for all the good work that they are doing, Jesse told us of two unfilled summer youth positions, one focused on the Visitors’ Centre - set to reopen July 1! - and the other a digital initiative. While these positions only last 10-weeks, extensions are possible. So far, there are no applicants. Know any youth who would be prefect?

Luckily avoiding the wind and downpour by minutes, we agreed to return to the United Church Meadow next Friday, June 18, 11-1 (sun predicted) to welcome Islands Trustee Laura Patrick.

And, to pass the word throughout the community that we are again gathering in the Meadow and welcome all in our community who have questions/concerns and want to listen to those of others. If you are interested in asking, listening, learning, and seeking solutions together, ASK Salt Spring may just fit the bill. .

Please join us next Friday, June 18, 11-1 in the United Church Meadow (Portlock Picnic Pavilion if raining) to welcome our Island Trustee Laura Patrick.

Interested in. . . ..

- Watershed Protection,

- Ganges Village Planning,

- Housing

- and. . . .?

Come to the Meadow to ask your questions, listen to those of others, and participate in rich, respectful conversations.

Bring your favorite hot beverage and a smile.

Chairs and chocolate chip cookies provided.

See you at the Meadow!

Any question, anytime:

Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings?

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We would love your receipts! Remember: #15

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