RDN Q&A: Parks; and Community Works Funds

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, October 10 2018

Howard Houle and Vanessa Craig are the two candidates vying to represent Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, Decourcy) on the Regional District of Nanaimo Board.

This week's questions focus on future use of Parks on Gabriola; and the use of Community Works Funds.

Parks

The Potlatch Application has been completed, from the Islands Trust perspective, and once all the paperwork is worked through, there will be over 350 acres added to the Regional District of Nanaimo Parks system between Coats And 707.

When the Potlatch subdivision between Spruce and Church goes through, the RDN will receive and additional 45 acres. Nine of those 45 are required to be kept as Passive Park (similar to the 707), while the remaining 36 acres could potentially be zoned as Active (similar to Rollo and Huxley parks)

Adding to the future planning for these new parks, is that both Coats Marsh and the 707 Community Park management plans are coming up for renewal.

This presents an opportunity for the community to have discussions around what is and isn’t permitted in passive-zoned parks; and active-zoned parks.

Question on Passive Parks - would you see there being any need to open up what is permitted in Passive Zoned Parks? In particular, should there be an allowance for people to take our permits for conducting tours through the parks? Active Parks - what other kinds of facilities/infrastructure/purposes would you see as potential for RDN Parks on Gabriola?

Houle: Opening up of P2 (passive park) zoning would require the Island Trust, RDN and Community to consult on what that would mean. Presently Passive Park can be used for walking, hiking, and nature appreciation and other special events by permit. The RDN parks department works with GALTT and the fire department on trails and access maintains to both Cox Park and the 707. This P2 zoning is on all community parks on Gabriola.

We have a lack of P3 (active recreation) land on Gabriola now and for the future. It may be possible to rezone part or all of the 36 acres up on Church Street to P3 use. That change would allow the community to have a recreation office, outdoor sports facilities tennis and basketball court playing fields and more. The community would need to set the course of development and the vision of the future. We can do the development of the lands slowly as the community needs increase.

Craig: Careful park management is essential to maintaining both ecological and recreational functions. Activities permitted by park type are standardized across the RDN. Bylaws already allow ‘special events’ under permit from the RDN, which considers the request in the context of the park plan and potential ecological and disturbance effects. Permitting for commercial activities is a useful oversight approach to managing the type and location of activities in our parks. If the community favours more P3 parkland, options could include a fenced off-leash dog park, or a bike park. It might also be a good location for a community water reservoir, which could provide water to our fire department and/or serve as a water source during an island emergency.

Community Works Funds

Beyond the Village Way Trail, and Phase 2 of Huxley Park (skateboard park and parking lot) What other uses would you see those Community Works funds being put to? Housing? Acquisition of land? Something else?

Houle: Presently the Community Works funds (CWF) are all dedicated to the Village Way Trail, the Huxley park skateboard park and the community hall. The use of CWF for Huxley park phase 2 development can be problematic. The CWF comes from the federal government and you cannot apply for federal grants as we would be double dipping. If we were to get a provincial grant then we could use the CWF to complete phase 2 at Huxley.

The fund is limited in what can be done, housing and land acquisition are two things we could not fund. What the fund is used for depends community needs and what applications come in for funding.  The projects would need to qualify under the program funding rules set by the UBCM. In 2018 the RDN Area B CWF received $173,000 I would expect a similar amount in 2019.

Craig: The CWF is a significant source of funding for Area B, with a 2018 allotment of ~$171,000 and an agreement for annual funding until at least 2024. As of spring 2018 the fund had built to ~$868,000. The RDN has since committed to an additional $180,000 in projects, plus the funds earmarked for the Village Way and Skatepark. Unfortunately, the process to apply for this money is not clear, and funding decisions (how and why) aren’t transparent. If elected I will revise the process to improve transparency by providing clear guidance for applicants, reporting regularly on how funds are disbursed, and enhancing community input mechanisms to help identify priorities for funding. In addition to continuing with the already-approved projects, other funding possibilities include projects to address disaster mitigation, hydrology/community water, and cultural infrastructure.

There will be an All-Candidates Forum hosted by the Gabriola Ratepayers on October 13, from 1-3pm, at the Gabriola Island Community Hall. All candidates running in the Gabriola-specific elections have confirmed they will be in attendance for that forum.