Public feedback on Ganges shared in report

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First of two parts

Salt Spring residents want a more people-centric and walkable Ganges, with clean and green public spaces, affordable housing and access to the waterfront, an Islands Trust public engagement process has found. 

Consultants conducted a survey, an ideas fair, pop-up booths and a walkabout to gather residents’ input late last year, and connected with organizations, businesses and people whose views might not otherwise be captured, including school-aged students and residents who are underhoused. All in all, around 800 people lent their opinions on the village’s present and future, which consultants grouped into themes and presented to the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee (LTC) on April 19. Information will feed into the creation of a future village area plan. 

A top priority consultants heard was affordable housing, including “rental, non-market, low-income and seniors housing.” People wanted to see more affordable housing in the village, including options like housing above commercial spaces. Concentrating residential density in the village prevents sprawl and “fragmentation of habitat outside the village,” the summary stated. 

People connected more housing in the village to other goals of making it a more vibrant space all day, as well as goals of a walkable village and staff for local businesses.

“I feel the housing in Ganges should be densified so that the core becomes more energized and creates activity that supports the businesses,” one survey respondent wrote. “This could alleviate the housing shortage and revitalize Ganges Village.” 

People value a walkable village, the consultants heard, where they can move through it and bump into people they know.

“At the same time, the village is currently seen as car-oriented and hostile to pedestrians,” the engagement summary stated.

Some changes participants want to see are less congestion, better managed parking and less vehicle traffic overall. Making travel on foot or by bicycle or wheelchair “safe, accessible, and delightful” is another priority. 

People value green spaces, consultants heard, and would like to have more outdoor spaces to gather outdoors, including a new central gathering space like a village square and green spaces with more trees, restored natural landscapes and Indigenous plant species. Young people said they’d like to see more indoor youth spaces.

“Folks living rough and dealing with addictions and mental health challenges have suggested that new, welcoming public spaces — like communal kitchens and maker spaces — would improve life on the island,” the summary stated. 

Centennial Park received its own section in the engagement summary. Consultant Jennifer Fix said the park is “among the most cherished, it’s also among the most challenged places in the village.”  Concerns were heard regarding certain activities in the park, including substance use, off-leash dogs and “perceived aggressive behaviours.” The park was noted by survey respondents as the space that would most benefit from improvement.

People who are underhoused or facing homelessness “are aware that there is a stigma associated with them being there,” the report stated, yet the park is an important social space for them as there are few other places for them to gather and experience community. 

The 106-page engagement report can be viewed here.

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