Capital Regional District (CRD) Park Planner Lynn Wilson walked Central Saanich council through updates to the draft Island View Beach Park management plan this week, discussing proposed changes to the original plan from 1989.
One of the many changes include the increase in the park size from 26 hectares to 49.
“The park is now our third most visited park in the system with over 384,000 visits in 2015,” she said to council at the May 16 regular council meeting.
The update is also looking at changing recreational activities in the park, as the CRD is proposing different tent and RV camping opportunities.
“Because Island View Beach is such a well-loved and popular park with residents and visitors from throughout the region, it is important for us to have a current management plan in place to provide direction for the future management of the park,” Wilson said.
In order to update the management plan, the CRD is in a four-step public participation process approved by the Regional Park Committee in 2014
Wilson said they are now at step 4: presenting the draft plan for public comment and finalizing it for CRD board approval later this year.
The CRD has had a lot of public input through each step of the process. Wilson said some of the issues they’ve heard that should be addressed include: the campground; dog management; invasive species control; garbage and recycling and more.
She said participants in the community dialogue session made it clear that the plan needs to find a balance between conservation and recreation that provides for both in an appropriate way.
“Many people commented on the berm, the ditches and the mosquito control program, saying that we needed to continue with these programs, but also that we need to monitor their effectiveness and their effects on the parks natural environment,” she said.
The District heard from many stakeholders including Friends of Island View Beach, Capital Region Dog Owners, Capital Region Equestrians, Rocky Point Bird Observatory and Victoria Natural History Society.
A representative from the Friends of Island View Beach said the plan would alter people’s enjoyment of the park, adding that most people want it to be left alone.
Friends of Island View Beach have gathered approximately 3,900 signatures on a petition not supporting the CRD Plan.
Liz Ashton, representing the Capital Region Equestrian Facility, said horses have been a major stakeholder in the park since the early 1960s. She said equestrians were appalled when they finally saw the draft plan. She said the only reference to horses in the whole document is on one page. She told the District that no plan should be approved until horses are at least recognized.
Michael Simmons of Rocky Point Bird Observatory talked about each of the birds that can be seen at Island View Beach and some of the disturbances on life cycles of the birds.
He said dogs off leash can cause some of that stress and said the Observatory is in support of the draft plan.
Wilson explained the draft includes improving environmental stewardship through better habitat protection and education and improving visitor experience through enhanced facilities and services.
It also looks at maintaining the existing berm, ditches, the mosquito control program and more. She said they will continue to welcome dogs in the park, but will study dog use and work with others to develop a dog management strategy.
Wilson also showed two maps which highlight the proposed park zoning, which she said is an area of interest to many people.
“We developed the park zoning based on a synthesis of the scientific information we have about the park, as well as an extensive public input we’ve received through the planning process.”
The zones include the outdoor recreation zone, the natural environment zone and the environmental protection zone.
Councillor Christopher Graham asked about the boat ramp in the park, wondering if the District is allowed to fix it.
“I noticed in the report it’s listed as not owned by the CRD, so that … would suggest that Central Saanich is still the owner just for clarification … and if that’s the case we could just go and fix it,” he said
“The question as to who owns the boat launch, it’s not the CRD,” said CRD Manager of Planning and Resource Management and Development Brett Hudson, “but as far as I’ve been able to find out, and I’ve asked the province about this, Central Saanich does not have a tenure from the province to occupy the foreshore there.
“So effectively it’s not clear that anybody owns the boat launch.”
The boat ramp was referred to committee for further discussion.
“I’m pleased that we are at least, as an organization, addressing a management plan because I think it’s important since 1989 that we do modernize and acknowledge that the environment is changing,” said Coun. Niall Paltiel. “And there’s things that we need to do to help mitigate and improve upon those changes.”
Paltiel said he’s concerned about camping. He said he doesn’t know why the District is in the business of providing camping areas with the CRD. He wanted to know if there’s a plan to phase that out or if it’s just being peeled back incrementally.
Wilson said the CRD inherited the campground in the park when they purchased the land in 2010, so it was their first foray into offering camping. She said their phased approach would be to move the RV side of the campground away from the shoreline and reconfigure that so that it’s a day use area.
“We’ve heard quite a few comments that people would like to use that area more year-round …” She said.
Palitell asked if there has been any consideration of banning dogs or horses from any particular areas, or instead, putting leash restrictions in place instead.
Wilson said the CRD would like to look at how dogs and their owners are using the park and will work with key partners to develop a dog management strategy.
Council referred the plan to a future committee meeting to fully discuss options, prior to sending a response to the CRD.