Viewpoint: Islanders do have a voice

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By GAYLE BAKER

On Friday, 29 people came to ASK Salt Spring to express their concerns about our roads to three Emcon managers (our new roads maintenance contractor). Many had specific concerns ranging from overfull gutters, icy curves and fast-encroaching invasive species — especially gorse — to the request for information about when to expect their road to be cleared after a snowfall. The surprise takeaway was that Emcon managers know Salt Spring road challenges very, very well.

Islanders left assured that Emcon is listening and gained a better understanding of the challenges they face to address our road maintenance issues. 

They also learned what we can do to help:

Have you ever shovelled your driveway only to find that the snowplow has buried the end of your driveway? Tip: Snowplows push the snow to the right. When shovelling, place your snow on the right side of your driveway to avoid getting it pushed back on to your driveway. 

Did you know that the culverts under our driveways are our responsibility? (They should have a diameter of 16 inches and be buried eight inches.) While Emcon will occasionally work to clear a driveway culvert, they will only do so when its malfunction threatens our roads. As one guest noted, when Emcon spends its time clearing our driveway culverts, they are not doing the other work we need them to do.

When cars are parked along our narrow, residential roads, it is almost impossible to clear them. Neighbours need to work together to make sure their roads are accessible to snowplows if they want their roads cleared in a timely manner. When cars are illegally parked in Ganges, the challenge is the same: these areas simply cannot be cleared.

Clearing drainage ditches is an enormous job for Emcon, and one that they take very seriously. The problem is: What can they do with the often-contaminated debris cleared from our ditches? With no dump sites available, Emcon is forced to leave the debris near the newly cleared ditch. And, guess what happens when it rains next? Emcon does not have a solution to this dilemma. Can we, as a community, locate an accessible dump spot for the ditch-clearing debris? 

Invasive species — especially gorse — are proliferating along our ditches. While a volunteer group works tirelessly to battle this encroachment, the solution is not simple. A partnership, initiated by Emcon, between those at the provincial level addressing this and our local volunteers, will be pursued.

The question was asked: If Salt Springers continue to report road maintenance concerns, will Encom get overwhelmed and stop listening? Their strong message was: Keep the reports coming (1-866-353-3136). They are listening. When a concern is received, it is logged and discussed to assess its priority in the daunting work plan Emcon has undertaken. 

Additionally, roads-related concerns brought to ASK Salt Spring are referred to Emcon every week and, when appropriate, sent to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. 

As the first time in a very long time that our roads maintenance contractor has reached out to listen to our concerns, there was heartfelt acknowledgment to Emcon managers for this effort. 

Salt Springers . . . we do have a voice — as well as a responsibility — to effectively address our road maintenance concerns.

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