CRD services reopening in Phase 3

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Following is an update on Capital Regional District activities from Salt Spring’s CRD director Gary Holman.

BY GARY HOLMAN,

CAPITAL REGIONAL DISTRICT DIRECTOR FOR SALT SPRING

COVID-19 Recovery

The leadership of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, along with senior governments and engaged citizens, has “flattened the curve,” enabling the reopening of our economy. Accordingly, CRD has reopened its offices and facilities such as tennis courts, Centennial playground, and the pool. Societies have also reopened CRD-funded services such as the library and recycling depot.  

The Tuesday Farmers’ Market has operated successfully for over a month and the Parks and Recreation Commission has now recommended reopening the market for non-food items at Centennial Park, later in July.  Traditionally, this has been a Saturday market, but due to concerns about attracting and ensuring physical distancing for larger crowds, the commission has recommended starting this market on Thursday and Friday. I strongly support this recommendation and thank the commission for considering the broader public interest on this issue. We all understand the economic impact of COVID, but the health risks of the pandemic still exist. A cautious approach is prudent to test management protocols at the relatively confined Centennial Park space.     

Other Parks and Recreation Activities

The new modular unit at the pool is now installed, with landscaping and servicing to be completed, including an electric vehicle charger. Requests for proposals for a permanent addition to the pool have also been issued. These projects were made possible by $1-million in funding from the province’s daycare program. The spaces will be available for recreation activities when not used for daycare.  

Public concerns about falling a number of dead trees at Duck Creek Park have resulted in a PARC decision to develop a formal tree-cutting policy, ensuring appropriate technical and public consultation in future. PARC and CRD bylaw enforcement have worked with the RCMP and local residents to address concerns about public disorder at Grace Point, on Seaview Avenue and the United Church meadow (now managed by PARC). CRD will work with nearby merchants to help address continuing problems at Centennial Park.  

Transportation Commission

Construction of North Ganges Transportation Plan Phase Two is underway.  PARC staff are also now building a section of the Booth Canal to Central pathway. A $490,000 grant from Bike BC will ultimately complete this pathway, connecting Portlock Park to downtown Ganges. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has informed the CRD that Ganges Hill will be repaved in 2021, allowing time to design adequate shoulder bike lanes and an uphill pedestrian pathway, and apply for additional Bike BC funding.

The summer transit schedule is now in effect, including trips to Ruckle Park. Occupancy on local buses is still limited and BC Transit recommends use of face masks if physical distancing is not possible. BC Transit has indicated it will provide some financial assistance for local services. Further provincial and federal support is anticipated.   

Affordable Housing

The development and construction of almost 80 units of affordable housing at Croftonbrook and Salt Spring Commons (funded by BC Housing and CRD Housing) continues, with occupancy beginning by year end. A BC Housing project on CRD’s Drake Road property has been delayed by COVID, but an announcement is anticipated this summer. BC Housing has funded Salt Spring Island Community Services for temporary rentals at the Seabreeze Inne. CRD continues to work with SSICS on funding for their shelter expansion.

BC Housing, and now the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation, have announced $10-million contributions to the CRD’s Regional Housing First program. CRD borrowing for its one-third share of the additional $30-million funding was approved unanimously by local governments in the region. The three electoral areas received voter consent by alternative approval processes (“counter-petitions”). Only 36 petitioners opposed the housing requisition on Salt Spring Island, indicating that AAPs are still a valid means of securing voter approval for modest tax increases. CRD’s Regional Housing First and BC Housing’s Community Housing programs for affordable rentals are open for proposals. I urge proponents on Salt Spring Island to take advantage of these programs. 

Fire District Collaboration

I’m participating on advisory committees established by the Salt Spring Island Fire Protection District (SSIFPD) regarding the proposed new fire hall and existing Ganges hall.  I continue advocating for collaboration between SSIFPD and CRD (e.g., co-locating an Emergency Operations Centre) and keeping the Ganges fire hall property in public hands.  Congratulations to SSIFPD for their successful chipping program funded through CRD and Union of BC Municipalities, as well their annual invasives collection program with the Transition Salt Spring Society. I’ll continue working with SSIFPD and stewardship groups on sustainable funding for these programs that reduce fire risk, offer an alternative to burning and provide feedstock for composting.    

Water

The Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance (SSIWPA) is coordinating studies of the sustainability of Weston Lake (supplying Fulford Water District), and the aquifer supplying the Cedar Lane Water District. SSIWPA, which has re-constituted itself to include NGOs and North Salt Spring Waterworks District, is also coordinating a pilot water storage rebate program. The CRD/NSSWD study of a possible island-wide water utility, is being reviewed internally. It is hoped that a re-organization of water management arising from this study could result in additional water infrastructure funding.

Community Economic Development Commission 

Congratulations to CEDC for securing funding for, and now piloting their proposed Shared Business Services model under contract with the Rural Island Economic Development Society. This society is also implementing CEDC’s new online gift card program. The CEDC may have a role in supporting implementation of our newly updated Area Farm and Climate Action Plans, both of which represent significant economic opportunities for Salt Spring. 

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