RDN shying away from Ecological Protection zoning

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, September 25 2019

The Regional District of Nanaimo has said it would prefer to use an existing type of park zoning for Coats Marsh Regional Park when/if that property is rezoned from Resource.

The 44.8 hectare (110 acre) parcel of land became the property of the RDN and the Nature Trust of BC in 2008 through the Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program. Since then, the intent of the Islands Trust and RDN has been to rezone it as a park.

Towards the end of the last term, the question came to the Trustees as to whether a new kind of zoning - one dedicated as an Ecological Protection zoning - could be created and applied to Coats Marsh.

Burren’s Acres was suggested as another property that could benefit from being rezoned under an Ecological Protection zoning.

The idea being that the zoning would place more restrictions on human use of the park than is already limited under the P2 (Passive) Park zoning.

In other words, zoning that doesn’t put humans first.

Trustees have requested that staff explore what the wording could be for such a zoning.

At the September 12 Local Trust Committee meeting, Trust staff reported they had met with RDN Parks staff.

From that discussion, it came out that the RDN is wanting to use one of the existing park zonings, as they feel the ecological zoning would be too restrictive if Coats Marsh were to be used for human purposes.

It should be noted, this news to the Trustees was in a verbal report from staff - a more formal report is expected at the October 24 LTC meeting.

Staff said “the RDN is not in favour of the more restrictive intent of an Ecological Protection zone, especially with regards to the recreational purposes allowed.”

Staff said the RDN realizes it will be necessary to rezone the property to something more specific than Resource - which it is already zoned as - but not under an Ecological Protection zone, as the RDN would want the park to remain open for passive recreation.

Trustee Kees Langereis said he was still in favour of having minimal use on Coats Marsh.

“To me, that’s what the concern is.”

He asked if the Nature Trust, who is a co-owner of the property, is on board with the RDN’s recommendation for what appears to be P2 zoning.

Trust staff said that’s part of what should come in the October report.

Langereis said, “For me, it’s important to establish areas where humanity is less important than the areas themselves.”

Trustee Scott Colbourne said when he was on Galiano Island, he had visited the Galiano Conservancy.

“That could be a helpful model on how this could be done.”

Tom Osborne, RDN Parks Manager, confirmed that his staff had met with Trust staff and the introduction of Ecological Zoning was spoken of.

“When it came to discussions around Coats Marsh - the conversation has been going on for quite some time - so when RDN Parks were zoned in the past, Coats Marsh was not included.”

The 707 Community Park, Huxley Community Park, and almost every other RDN park on Gabriola was rezoned to either Park P2 (Passive) or Park P3 (Active) in recent years.

Coats Marsh Regional Park was not included in those re-zonings as it hadn’t been determined how best to zone it.

Also, Osborne said, there had been some red flags for his staff around the restrictions that are on the property having been purchased through the ecological gift program.

“Generally, it was put on hold.

“There is an agreement in place that came under the current zoning of the park which allows for recreational attributes, and could include conservation elements.

Osborne said the RDN will continue the dialogue with Trust staff and there will be recommendations to Trust staff and the RDN Board.

Osborne confirmed the property is co-owned by the RDN and the Nature Trust of BC. The RDN has a long-term license to operate Coats Marsh as a regional park.

“What is unique,” he said, “is regardless of the zoning, the RDN will have to stay in keeping with how the land came to the RDN - to make no substantial changes to compromise that.

“It already has a high level of protection, notwithstanding the zoning.”

According to the Federal Government website, “the Ecological Gifts Program provides a way for Canadians with ecologically sensitive land to protect nature and leave a legacy for future generations. Made possible by the terms of the Income Tax Act of Canada and the Quebec Taxation Act, it offers significant tax benefits to landowners who donate land or a partial interest in land to a qualified recipient. Recipients ensure that the land’s biodiversity and environmental heritage are conserved in perpetuity.”