Although moving Sunfest to a new location at Meade Creek affects the Cowichan Lake area directly, lots of residents in other parts of the Valley have been following the story, too.
One of these is Marty Goliath, owner of White Spot Restaurant.
He joined the supporters of the move who flocked to the microphone at a public hearing at Youbou Hall Monday, Dec. 7, which aimed to give regional directors a last chance to hear the public on the subject before it comes to the CVRD table on Jan. 13.
Goliath said he’s been involved with Sunfest for many years and wants to see it continue, as it benefitted business widely across the Cowichan Valley but that wasn’t all.
Many people really enjoy the experience of volunteering and learning new skills at such a big event, he said, adding that young people who started out as volunteers have actually been hired for jobs at Sunfest in subsequent years, helping them pay for their schooling.
“People love this. I know it impacts a lot of people. We all benefit, I know I do, and we need this as a community,” he said.
By the sound of the audience of about 250 people, most of the crowd supported the idea of moving the big country music festival to a property its owners are calling Lake Town Ranch, but a vocal group of opponents still wanted one more chance to speak to a Cowichan Valley Regional District panel that included Youbou director Klaus Kuhn, Honeymoon Bay director Ian Morrison and North Oyster director Mary Marcotte, plus regional district staffers Mike Tippett and Rob Conway.
Also on hand to answer questions were Lake Town Ranch’s Greg Adams and Jennifer Kay.
Some of the newest updates about the project included the assurance that only 15 days per year would be allocated to festivals, instead of the 30 originally requested by the developer. There is also a provision that three unused days can be carried forward one year.
Another new point is that music must stop during a quiet time of 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. each day of a festival, Tippett said.
But most of the audience had come to hear what the people had to say to back up the 82 letters received up to the time of the public hearing. It was the last chance to get anything on the record.
Many opponents, led by John Harmon and Jack Peake, called for independent studies of such subjects as forest fire risk, known criminal activity, traffic, other similar festivals, effects of sound, and water problems. Harmon said he hoped to see something like a sawmill with permanent jobs on the site.
The crowd listened to a variety of views, but tempers in the hall frayed after the first hour and a half.
When one man stood up and said he had moved to the area for the quiet lifestyle and asked if allowing Lake Town Ranch would be jeopardizing the area’s reputation, a voice from the audience yelled, “Sit down. It’s a three-day event!”
Others joined in briefly but Kuhn rebuked them for being disrespectful and then said bluntly that he would be making his decision “for the majority of people in Area I. I act for my people.”
A representative from Coulson Flying Tankers — famous for their Martin Mars water bomber — said his outfit’s location at Sproat Lake was just over the mountain from Meade Creek and he could efficiently mobilize forest fire fighting equipment from there.
Several speakers said they were concerned about the effect on the environment but Denis Martel of the Wilderness Watch group stepped up and said that the group was actually supporting the proposal.
Former CVRD chair Joe Allan pointed out that the property next to the site was already zoned heavy industrial, so if people were concerned about noise and other problems, they could still be facing them from operations on that land.
By 8:50 p.m., they finally got around to the positive comments and a line of people quickly formed at the mic right out to the door.
Lake Cowichan Coun. Bob Day quoted a 1991 report that called for establishment of a destination resort and possibly a theme park to help boost the economy of the area. He was also one of several who said that to keep pining for a new forest industry boom at Lake Cowichan was to court continued disappointment.
Tourism is the doorway to the future, and events like Sunfest will bring a lot of people to Cowichan Lake, he said.