The Salt Spring Parks and Recreation Commission has moved the Ganges Harbour Walk up on its project list, approving a motion last Tuesday that will put parks and recreation manager Dan Ovington on the file once another staff person can be hired.
“I am not afraid to stand up and say this is important to our community. It has been for decades and it’s time for it to happen,” commissioner Brian Webster said in support of the motion.
”It’s vitally important to the health of Ganges and it’s an asset people who live all over the island will use, and it will be used by visitors as well. The positive economic impact in Ganges could be substantial, I’m sure,” he added.
The opportunity to move forward on the project to eventually rebuild and extend the boardwalk comes through the Capital Regional District’s application for a statutory right-of-way across Ganges Marina areas, which will be necessary to access new sections of boardwalk constructed along the current structure’s footprint.
Although the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has not yet granted the right-of-way, it did leave provision for one when granting the marina’s new foreshore lease earlier this year. The ministry has required the CRD to produce detailed design drawings in consultation with upland owners before it will approve the SRW application, however. This reverses the work plan the harbour walk steering committee had originally produced, when it would have invested in detailed designs only after a SRW was in hand.
The CRD had previously allocated $150,000 in Community Works Funds to the project for assessments, consultation and detailed designs. There is $86,590 remaining in the project budget to proceed with phase two works.
“We’ve got the opportunity; we’ve got the funding; we’ve got the right to access Crown land, which is public land that everybody owns, and I hope we take advantage of it,” Salt Spring CRD director Gary Holman said at the meeting.
The steering committee recommended earlier this month that PARC proceed with the project ahead of other on-hold projects after staffing capacity increases. Holman suggested the wording be amended to state the project would move ahead “along” with other top priorities, a change that was supported by most of the commissioners.
Ovington agreed the new recreation project technician, when hired, will be simultaneously working on other top priority projects while he focuses on the boardwalk.
Commissioner John Gauld was the sole vote in opposition to the motion, as he found there were too many questions that still needed to be answered first. He noted that even with a SRW across the marina property, there could still be issues with other upland properties like the infamous “Cudmore gap” and a small section owned by the Salt Spring Farmers’ Institute. Ovington said he’s had good conversations with institute representatives and design plans will make provision for going around the gap area if need be.
Webster agreed with Gauld that issues do need to be resolved, but he said moving staff time onto the project to get the SRW issue dealt with first would be the way to start finding some answers to the questions affecting the larger project as a whole.
“Let’s just do the design so we get that fundamental piece out of the way and at the same time, because we’re essentially saying this is a high priority by passing this motion, that we’ll be allocating staff time and energy to the full basket of issues — not just that right of way, but all the other stuff . . . because they’re all legitimate points,” Webster said.
In addition to detailed designs and consultation with upland owners, community consultation, site assessments and First Nations engagement will be required in the next phase. Tendering a construction project and finding funds to build the boardwalk will be another part of the program.
“We phase a lot of our projects and that’s really the only way we’ve been able to do so much, when we take these little pieces,” Ovington said. “Unfortunately the nature of the beast is that we need to take these chunks, and sometimes that’s not the full project all at once, but eventually everything comes together.”