Monday, April 15, 2024
April 15, 2024

Harbourwalk steering committee plans review before outreach

With funding for outreach and designs allocated — and a consulting firm retained — Salt Spring’s new Ganges Harbourwalk Steering Committee hit the ground running at its first meeting, as regional district staff laid out history and two different paths for a project revitalizing the waterfront. 

Current harbourwalk infrastructure dates back to its installation in the 1980s, explained Capital Regional District (CRD) electoral area manager Dan Ovington, a collaborative initiative involving multiple public agencies and community volunteers. But the legal instruments required to guarantee public access along the entirety of the route — known as statutory rights of way — were not secured at the time of the original construction. As a result, there are gaps in the harbourwalk — and some segments have fallen into disrepair. 

As part of a provincial application to secure those rights of way, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development needs to see detailed designs created in consultation with upland property owners, First Nations and the broader community.  

Notably, Salt Spring’s now-disbanded CRD transportation commission also allocated funding towards development of a harbourside pathway that could be placed in the existing road right of way upland from the harbourwalk — and that potential path, along Lower Ganges Road from the intersection with Rainbow Road to where Lower Ganges meets Upper Ganges Road, would also be a huge improvement for pedestrians. 

So the also-now-disbanded Parks and Recreation Commission approved a project charter to hire a single consulting firm to gather input on both possible projects — a 300-metre walk along the foreshore, connecting Rotary Park and the waterfront Farmers’ Institute property to the languishing Ganges Harbour Community Park, and a 400-metre pathway along Lower Ganges Road — and $100,000 has been allocated from capital reserves to move ahead with producing designs to show the province.

“That’s in the 2024 budget,” said Ovington. “We’ve applied for a grant for that same amount, and we should know if we’re successful for that grant in early June, which would free up that capital reserve funding for other parks and recreation projects, so fingers crossed with that.” 

The harbourwalk committee passed a motion to review the conceptual design before it goes out to consultation; committee member and Local Community Commission (LCC) member Brian Webster expressed a hope that communication between the harbourwalk committee and the LCC remain open so that there would be few surprises as commissioners were asked to sign off at what Ovington called “key project milestones” in the project charter. 

“This is a fair-sized project, from a financial point of view,” said Webster. “I understand there are sensitivities, particularly around First Nations and negotiations with property owners. But I think we need to be respectful of the role of both committee members and the LCC to make the process work.” 

The steering committee will later bring the conceptual design to the LCC, Ovington said, after the consultation work has been completed. LCC can then approve, deny or amend that plan before moving ahead with detailed designs. 

“My hope, and I think staff’s concern, is that we not duplicate the process,” said Webster at the LCC’s evening meeting Thursday, March 14. “But at the same time, we need to be careful not to exclude the LCC from key decision points along the way.” 

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