ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN
Greg Gerbis thinks the plan to build a pedestrian bridge over Somenos Creek into the heart of the environmentally sensitive Somenos Marsh should be reconsidered.
Gerbis, who has lived adjacent to the marsh for almost 20 years, said the wetland has faced many challenges over the years due to development encroaching on its borders, but the most “egregious assault” yet is the plan for a pedestrian bridge right through its centre.
The plan by the Municipality of North Cowichan, supported by the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society, is for a pedestrian bridge to be built from the York/Beverly street roundabout through the marsh to the Timbercrest subdivision.
Municipal authorities and members of the society said the plan for the bridge is still in its early stages, and independent environmental studies to determine what, if any, impacts it would have on the marsh would have to be completed before any final decisions are made.
“I think it’s hypocritical for a society that is responsible for preserving the marsh to be an advocate of this bridge,” Gerbis said. “It seems to me that this, on top of all the other work being done next to the marsh, will see this valuable and sensitive wetland die of a thousand cuts.”
Paul Fletcher, president of the SMWS, said the idea of a pedestrian bridge through the marsh was first proposed 25 years ago, and the society has always supported the concept of establishing a trail to allow easier access.
But he said a lot of work has to be done before the project can proceed, including an archaeological study, and consulting with the local residents.
“The society won’t support the project if it’s determined that it would be destructive to the marsh,” Fletcher said.
Jon Lefebure, mayor of the Municipality of North Cowichan, also said the future of the bridge project depends on its environmental feasibility.
“This proposal still has to pass a lot of tests before it can go ahead,” Lefebure said.
“We would never put anything in the marsh that would harm it. We know the marsh is a very environmentally sensitive area and we would have to be sure that any impacts there would be minimal before we allow this to proceed.”