Will Salt Spring Finally Get its Long-Awaited HarbourWalk?
Twenty-one came to this ASK Salt Spring weekly gathering to welcome HarbourWalk enthusiasts Bruce Cameron, Darryl Martin, Kaeli Yarwood, and Robin Willians. They are also core members of the newly-formed Chamber HarbourWalk Committee. (Other members of this committee are Wayne Tepper and Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce President, Dayle Murray.) After our Territorial Acknowledgement, they began by offering us some history and foundational information about our long-awaited HarbourWalk.
Darryl began by telling us briefly of his ten-year involvement, both as Chair of the Community Economic Development (now Sustainability) Commission and, more recently, as Chamber President. He spoke briefly about his disappointment that CRD has prioritized other initiatives over the HarbourWalk, resulting in delaying the progress of this important project for many years. It is Darryl’s conclusion, from both his Chamber as well as community perspective, that now is the time is to move forward with dispatch to get this important infrastructure project done.
Robin spoke from his perspective as the former Chair of the CRD’s Transportation Commission. He focused on the recent history of our HarbourWalk instead of lingering on the disappointing decades-old Boardwalk project with its few remaining ruins. We learned that, in 2014, this initiative was in the hands of the Islands Trust. It was theorized that rezoning some of the properties adjacent to the planned HarbourWalk would be the first step. This assumption was reevaluated after a tumultuous Trust meeting with many concerned about harbourside development, likely fueled by a well-circulated conceptual drawing of an expansive hotel adjacent to the HarbourWalk.
Rather than pursuing its suggested rezoning of properties adjacent to the planned HarbourWalk, Islands Trustees began to explore the 30-year provincial shoreline tenure application by Ganges Marina. This lease had expired in 2017 and the Marina was operating under a month-to-month agreement with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD): https://www.gulfislandsdriftwood.com/ltc-to-investigate-shoreline-right-of-way-application/. The plan was to get this renewed lease to mandate a secure right-of-way over this public property managed by the Ganges Marina. After years and many meetings, FLNRORD now only requires the design for our HarbourWalk to grant this right of way across the foreshore of the Ganges Marina property.
While not the entire length of the proposed HarbourWalk, this victory appears to have taken away a major the hurdle for a significant section as the Ganges Marina owns three key properties along its proposed route.
During the four years negotiating with FLNRORD, leadership of the HarbourWalk project passed from Island Trust, as it no longer appeared to be a zoning issue, to CRD as PARC is well-experienced acquiring and managing land. As a result, the Ganges HarbourWalk Steering Committee was established with community and Chamber representation as well as Chairs of both PARC and Transportation Commissions, a hopeful effort to breakdown silos to get the job done. Never intended to be a CRD committee - and originally-chaired by the community representative, late, beloved Matt Steffich - this Steering Committee is now overseen and chaired PARC.
Originally, PARC’s sole role was to develop the unused and weed-infested - but potentially stunning - park at the corner of Upper and Lower Ganges Roads, commonly known as Peck Park. Intentions were to celebrate its opening as well as the completion of our HarbourWalk on July 1, 2017, part of Canada 150.
Our former Electoral Director, Wayne McIntyre, gave $150,000 from our Community Works (gas tax) funding for the assessment and design of this HarbourWalk. While some has been spent assessing the usefulness of the remaining Boardwalk structure, slightly more than half of this amount remains to fund the next step: Community and First Nations consultation and shovel-ready designs.
Late in 2019, the HarbourWalk Steering Committee requested PARC give top priority to the development these designs, soon accepted by a PARC resolution identifying this important project as one of its top priorities. This priority languished for a number of reasons. Among them was the tragic passing of its most passionate advocate, Matt Steffich, in 2020. Soon followed by COVID upheaval and then compelling, time-sensitive PARC projects intervened, including the lease of the Middle School, logistics surrounding the eventual acquisition of the current firehall, and the Mount Maxwell property, (https://www.crd.bc.ca/about/news/article/2022/07/06/salt-spring-island-community-parks-acquisition), consuming limited staff time.
But. . . new life has been infused into this HarbourWalk project with the recent introduction of a new CRD Project Charter combining designs and consultation for both the HarbourWalk and a pathway on the harbourside of Lower Ganges Road. Supported by the HarbourWalk Steering Committee on December 2022, a request for Proposals (RFP) for the designs of these two projects is expected to be released this month, January 2023. (Hopefully, the agenda of this December 2022 meeting - including the Staff Report presenting a new Project Charter - as well as minutes of this committee meeting, will soon appear on the CRD website.)
While there are significant ownership as well as geotechnical challenges with a harbourside pathway along Lower Ganges, participants, in general, seemed to understand its potential as long as construction of this project remains separate, with no possibility that these challenges will slow completion of our long-awaited HarbourWalk.
So, focusing on the HarbourWalk rather than the Transportation Commission's proposed harbourside pathway, some challenges were presented:
What happened to the previous Project Charter? Shouldn’t there have been a performance review of this charter before seemingly tossing it away and replacing it?
Will the RFP include the recommendation from members of the HarbourWalk Steering Committee that, while designs will end at Peck Park, these designs should plan for its eventual continuation all the way to Moby’s? Acceding to Bruce Cameron, a recent poll by Salt Spring Insights: (https://saltspringinsights.com/) revealed that 92% of the respondents wanted the HarbourWalk to extend to Moby’s - a percentage rarely - if ever - seen on Salt Spring! )
Will there be a preference for a local consultant who knows and understands Salt Spring?
How will the recommendation for the inclusion of something acknowledging Matt Steffich be included in these designs?
Will this RFP require completion of shovel-ready designs in time to apply for the expected deadline for provincial infrastructure grants in October 2023?
We learned from a participant (who should know!) about the long-ago completion of the boardwalk fronting Mouat’s property from the dock to Rotary Park. This work was done decades ago when the Oystercatcher was being renovated and ugly power and telephone lines along the harbour were being buried. In those days, costs were significantly lower, with the majority of the expense being the burial of the lines. Totaling about $110,000 for all the work, government funding paid for half of the costs.
Years ago, it was agreed that boardwalk ownership and maintenance would fall to CRD, but, as this agreement was never in writing, Moauts continues to maintain this portion of the HarbourWalk. While some participants noted this unfairness, this knowledgeable participant reminded us that its maintenance is guaranteed as long as Mouats retains ownership.
When a participant asked where the funding for construction of the HarbourWalk would come, there was no simple answer. But, with access to federal and provincial funds as well as the generosity of our community, most felt that, once shovel-ready designs are completed, raising funds for this important community amenity will be possible. . .and just the sort of challenge this new Chamber HarbourWalk Committee is eager to spearhead.
So, what can our community do to help? First - if you. want this HarbourWalk, let your feelings be known. Maybe this will be via the new website: https://www.gangesharbourwalk.com/? Maybe through your favorite social media? How about letters to the Driftwood and the Exchange? And, if you prefer in person participation, how about attending CRD discussions, both in Transportation and PARC Commissions as well as HarbourWalk Steering Committee meetings, all of which will be posted on the Ganges HarbourWalk website.
Do you want it to happen? Get involved!
As 1:00 approached, participants were inspired by the knowledge and enthusiasm of our special guests, Kaeli, Robin, Darryl, and Bruce and appeared ready to get actively involved in this exciting project, if only as cheerleaders for this enthusiastic group. As we got ready to leave, we were reminded not to get overwhelmed by the challenges and unanswered questions but ask ourselves; What would Matt do? And, then proceed onward with confidence and optimism. (A heartfelt thank-you, Darryl Bruce, Robin and Kaeli for leading us there!)
Please join us this Friday, January 27, 11-1, in the Middle School Lobby to welcome our intrepid cycling enthusiast to learn what is happening - and what is not happening - to make cycling safer and more fun on Salt Spring.
What would you like to ask them?
What are the major challenges to safe cycling on Salt Spring?
What is being done to address these challenges? What needs to be done?
Can you tell us: What is the Salish Sea Trail?
What would you like to see accomplished in 2023 to make cycling safer?
How would you proceed to get the job done?
Please join us this Friday, January 27, to learn all you ever
wanted to know about the trials and triumphs of cycling on Salt Spring
Remember: the Middle School Lobby!
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