Viewpoint: Pathways cost not tallied

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By Jenny McClean

In response to the budget debates going back and forth in the Driftwood, I would like to say the following:

The North Ganges Transportation Plan, aside from the successful part that was built before the 2014 taxation referendum (that took another million out of Salt Spring property owners, above the war chest that was already held by the CRD and also a separate taxation that contributes to the bus), has not succeeded in its plan.

Two studies were commissioned and that was the JE Anderson report and the James report. Island Pathways, which receives CRD funding, joined in with plans to create a pathway loop around town going along Rainbow to Atkins, along Lower Ganges and back to town. At the time it was obvious that a certain idea would not work. 

Better ideas presented from the public included the suggestion that people could already use Swanson Road instead of the unmanageable hill they have to tackle to go on Atkins. Years went by with so much effort going into this one rigid design idea.

In the meanwhile some good projects did get built. For example, the path by Churchill Road that goes into town is quite nice and useful. 

However, with the ideas to take over road shoulders and convert them into paths in areas that were already walkable (for example, by the upper part of the Farmers’ Institute and also the pullover outside Phoenix Secondary), it was just a waste of time and money. That money continues to go out each year as the upkeep costs are paid for by property taxes. The CRD has an annual budget of $40,000 for pathways maintenance.

I attended the budget presentation by Gary Holman. That was the same presentation that the Driftwood attended.

Gary Holman stated at that public meeting that the arrangement between the CRD and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for the land transfer from MoTI to the CRD to enable the “paths” to be built was that the CRD (local taxes) would pay for the upkeep of the paths in perpetuity.

For many that does not matter and is just business as usual. However, when I asked at that time about the maintenance budget as it was openly known that it did have a cost, the CRD would not admit it was a budget item. The reason this matters is that those who may want a different type of design, or those who have already given money in lieu of land to Islands Trust, may wish to have some input on the design. Islands Trust collected money for a sidewalk from a property owner, yet there were no sidewalk plans. 

At that time I did not understand the politics here at all. The divisiveness was fanned by the unwillingness to listen to the public. It was not considered that the pathways cost any money at all. However, the North Ganges Transportation Plan, which includes pathways, has been quite expensive, including the $1 million extra property taxes approved in the 2014 referendum.

The writer is a Salt Spring Island resident.

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