Viewpoint: Let’s restore the public square
By DAVID FULLBROOK
When the Fulford Inn closed in 2010, I did not see myself assuming ownership of the property. Far from it.
Something changed for me as the years of inaction passed by. I suppose I could say I lived nearby and would drive by it often, watching the impacts. I suppose I could say it was the murder of Joseph Birney in that area, or the noticeable decline of Fulford village life, or just the absence of a place that had a heartbeat and vibrancy that I was familiar with. I honestly don’t really know. In time, by about 2015 or so, however, I came to the view that the decline of the Fulford Inn was the loss of an essential gathering and meeting place to our community.
We may each of us feel tangible personal grief when considering the challenges our community faces — climate change, habitat loss, fishery decline, homelessness, income inequality, drug addiction — but these horsemen have always been lurking. No simple decision or plan will emerge which solves any of these problems. The only way we can meet the challenges of the future is to build and strengthen our community life, our connection and obligation to each other. We cannot defeat these horsemen, only face them, and that will be easier if we do it together.
Albert Camus wrote: “All great deeds and great thoughts had a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street corner or a restaurant’s revolving door.” This is the public square: the place where we gather and engage in a sharing of viewpoints, backgrounds and abilities. It is in the public square that ideas and opinions clash and wrestle and give rise to innovation, enterprise and opportunity. Literally and figuratively we inhabit a world today without a public square; it has been privatized “online” and called “speech.” Largely fuelled by division, drama and conflict, this private square is so antithetical to our shared history that we find ourselves in a world where complexity and intellect are frequently outmatched by emotion.
Much as it may feel better to hang on to a simple principle and hold true to that belief through to the bitter end, in the real world we must measure and weigh the practical benefits and costs and determine the best path forward on the basis of many outcomes. This does not come without often difficult compromise.
Much has been written of late in this newspaper regarding the Vortex project and the various reasons why the proposal should be denied by the Local Trust Committee. I share all of the concerns of the authors and I support their important voices for our island. Instead of debating, I hope to build understanding. For that purpose I created an easy-to-navigate website (www.saltspringvortex.com) to provide access to the technical information, design rationale, and various design plans that make up the basis of the application. I hope people will visit the website for themselves and inform their understanding of the proposal. While the Islands Trust hold the bar for development high, a view of the website will illustrate that we have well exceeded that bar.
As always, I thank the many neighbours and friends who have supported our efforts during this long campaign to rebuild the Fulford Inn. I look forward to the final decision and moving one step toward realizing the goal of reestablishing a community gathering space and public square at Fulford Harbour.