The Qualicum Beach Community Park has long been a pristine, peaceful refuge for its residents, providing ample shade and beauty via its vast trail network through the woods. We've collected a trove of vast memories from walking with our families and our dogs, while reveling beneath the canopy of the evergreens. This is an iconic part of our village; a community asset to be guarded and passed to generations forth.
It has been announced that about 260 meters of trail and up to 5 acres of forest on Jones and Rupert are now on the chopping block to become the permanent home of the Public Works Yard. Here, the trails meander down a gentle slope south of the cemetery, through a gorgeous setting of healthy trees--many of which are over 70 years old (but part of and integral to the health of the overall contiguous & endangered old-growth Coastal Douglas Fir forest system our community enjoys). Know this: once they are gone, they are gone for good.
During the April 29th, 2021 Committee of the Whole Meeting, Mayor Brian Wiese touted a temporary Dry Housing project that demanded the urgent and inevitable clear-cutting of this section of our community park. We were told there was not time for consultation or investigation of alternative sites. While it was indicated an Environmental Impact Assessment was performed, the Town responded as follows to a request for it: "We confirm that the Town of Qualicum Beach has no records related to your request."
It appeared that no reason, diligence or consultation was driving the decision to immediately remove part of a beloved recreational community asset, which also acts as natural municipal infrastructure for mitigating flooding and drought. But we also learned the inevitable is anything but when we work together for a better future.
As expected, our community rallied and won a small victory, resulting in a brief reprieve. This should serve as proof that our voices--when used together--can make a difference!
While the urgency of a grant deadline is gone--and in the absence of a CAO--it appears this issue is once again on the table and will be discussed at the November 24th, 2021 COW. The report attempts to portray that other sites were investigated as possibilities, citing drawbacks such as "noise conflicts" due to proximity to residential housing while conveniently ignoring the neighborhood by Jones and the impacts it will have on those who enjoy these heavily trafficked nature trails; techniques such as this may turn "information" into "manipulation".
The most concerning drawback of one of these locations is: "The parcel shape limits the future growth of the yard in this area." If the community is being told that other locations do not allow growth, isn't that the same as saying the location on Jones and Rupert is suitable because it does allow growth? So long term, as the decades pass, just how much of our Community Park will be successively lost to the Public Works Yard while it continues to expand to service our growing community? This alone should be a non-starter for allowing a piece of our Community Park--no matter how small--to be clear-cut.
On the tail of historic floods creating a state of emergency across British Columbia--associated with clear-cuts--our Town is proposing to remove up to 5 acres of a forest containing soil that may have the potential of absorbing up to 18 inches of rain and replace it with impermeable surfaces. Of course that rainfall will be diverted elsewhere, burdening our infrastructure. Trees are natural municipal infrastruture that save taxpayer dollars!
Further, this section of the forest is a protective buffer for the overall contiguous old-growth forest system it is a part of (and although younger, contains the same genetics, organisms and mycelium as that older system). While our Official Community Plan emphasizes sustainability, tree retention & the specific protection of endangered Coastal Douglas Fir forest systems, the "information"/"manipulation" really does not weigh the ecological cost of this particular clearing appropriately and in alignment with our values.
Of course, we must concede we do not know the full extent of the ecological and infrastructure damage this will cause due to the absence of studies, which should always inform site selection (rather than being sought retroactively).
And finally, ignored as well is the loss in land value. To replace 5 acres of contiguous recreational land adjacent to the remaining park would--if possible--cost the Town at least $5 million dollars. What is not be accounted for is the dramatic drop in land value of this irreplacable community asset, which would not be experienced at the other locations. Put simply, the economic, social, ecological and infrastructure costs of this location do not seem to be adequately factored into the assessment. Perhaps that is because this was previously chosen long ago, without any significant due diligence and public consultation?
While we expect an onslaught of the usual cries of "misinformation", if we as a community hold true to our values and rally together again, we can preserve this community asset for generations to come; as a Town, we can simply find a better place without the land, recreational and ecological value. As depicted below, our Town has no shortage of land, and Jones and Rupert are absolutely not central to current and future growth.
It is time to inform your neighbors and your family. It is time to speak out. Please consider raising your voice for our Community Park and the future of Qualicum Beach! We can do this!