The meadow owned by the Salt Spring Island United Church will be operated and maintained by the Capital Regional District Parks and Recreation Commission, after PARC voted to enter in a licence of occupation for the property and to maintain it as a community park.
According to the staff report presented to the commission, “in recent years the meadow has increasingly become a place where people are openly drinking, smoking and conducting themselves outside of the Salt Spring United Church’s intended use” and that despite signage and following other recommendations presented by the RCMP, these activities have continued and have forced SSUC to either close the meadow to the public or provide additional enforcement.
On June 19, the United Church sent a letter to the CRD, asking them to enter in a licence of occupation for the space, which would allow the district to use and enforce CRD park bylaws.
The occupation will be similar to one governing Drummond Park. In 1996, the CRD entered into an agreement with the Fulford Community Association to maintain and operate that park.
As part of their request, the church has asked to be able to continue holding community events in the space. Some events have already been scheduled, including an Indigenous arts and crafts market, a car boot sale and an annual Sunday service in the meadow.
The creek crosses the property from the north west corner to the south east corner. The letter says that the creek acts as a natural divider, with the churchyard being on the east side of the property, and the “park-like meadow” on the west side. Initially, the request was that the CRD provide bylaw enforcement for all parts of the United Church property excluding the building itself. In their letter, the church stated that they would be responsible for maintenance and upkeep north of the creek, and that PARC would cover maintenance to the south.
“I think the church should take responsibility for the fact that they have some nooks and crannies and areas that . . . I wouldn’t want bylaw enforcement officers to go into at night,” said commissioner John Gauld. “I think that it may be worthwhile considering that we just go into a licence of occupation on one side of the creek.”
“My sense of this is that there’s a benefit hidden in having the area that functionally is a park be managed and maintained as a park by PARC. That’s a separate issue than enforcement and bylaws. However, the two come together and I think that’s good,” commissioner Brian Webster added. “In the letter they’re asking for all of the outside area, other than the footprint of the building to be PARC, and I’m not sure we necessarily want to go to a place like that.”
The commission asked to amend the motion to include only the lands located west of the creek on the property.
Total costs of the new park will be $9,470, which takes all legal, signage, maintenance and bylaw enforcement costs into account. Funding for bylaw enforcement has been added as a supplementary item to the community parks budget, and potential offset could come from increased park booking revenue next year.