By Tim Collins/Contributor
The CRD has, at least for the time being, retreated from plans to seek approval for a new Island View Beach Regional Park management plan — a plan that has generated significant opposition from at least one community group.
In a Nov. 20 report to the Regional Parks Committee of the CRD, staff recommend the Draft Interim Park Management Plan be tabled until 2015.
“It’s going to give our staff a chance to address the issues and bring forward a complete plan with all the information,” said Jeff Ward, CRD Regional Parks Manager.
Information, or at least the totality and accuracy of it in the initial “draft interim” plan are at the heart of some of the criticism.
“Almost none of the claims made in the draft interim plan withstood scrutiny and it is difficult to understand how so many incorrect statements could be made accidentally,” said Jason Austin, spokesperson for the Friends of Island View Beach, a group of concerned stakeholders in the park’s operation.
For example, said Austin, the plan identified at-risk species within the park without stating where those species reside and what measures are needed to preserve them. In one case the plan identified the streaked horned lark as an at-risk species. This was despite the fact a previous CRD document (the Cordova Strategy) stated the species in question “is not currently known to breed in Canada.”
“To our astonishment we found there did not even appear to be an accurate inventory or mapping of what is there,” said Austin. “To proceed on a park plan without a park inventory and mapping is like building a house without foundation.”
The CRD is aware of the problems.
“We’re going to be reviewing those (criticisms) — check them all out and make sure everything in our report is accurate,” said Ward.
A lack of public input is another point of contention and again it appears the criticism may be well founded.
The Nov. 20 report to the Parks Committee revealed that Elevate Consulting, retained to “provide support for the public engagement process,” reported that “due to an absence of a randomized method of collecting input and the (low) number of participants …the results are not statistically valid.”
Only 65 people attended any of the public engagement sessions and only 77 online survey responses were submitted. There are an estimated 250,000 annual visits to the park.
“We could have done a better job,” said Ward. “We need to ensure that we have all those interests represented. We’re prepared to have those conversations.”
And that process may have already begun.
On Oct. 30, Ward, Alastair Bryson (Chair of the CRD), Susan Brice (Chair of the Regional Parks Committee) and Mike Walton (the new CRD Senior Manager, Parks) attended the meeting of the Friends of Island View Beach to hear their concerns first hand. Another meeting between CRD management and the Friends group was held Nov. 7 at the park.
“It was a chance for a frank and candid discussion,” said Austin.
“It’s always my job as an elected official to make certain that the people of my community have actually spoken through the process,” said Brice. “We’re going to ensure that everyone has as many opportunities as possible (to be part of the process).”
“This is really a victory for common sense,” said Austin. “We are not against environmental concerns. But the public should be engaged throughout this process. Only when this is done can an informed balance be made between environmental protection and the right of the public to use the park.”