Chemainus – Now that 90 per cent of Echo Heights Forest in Chemainus has been saved, it is time to take a look back and a glimpse forward.
North Cowichan municipal elections are in a few months. There will be much trumpeting amongst candidates about how they listened to the vast majority of residents and saved most of this special place while practicing good fiscal management by the proposed low-risk housing development on the remaining portion.
What they won’t be chattering about are their closed ears and minds during the 3,000 days it took to make this happen. Yes, it was more than eight years ago that our public servants first floated the hare-brained plan to build more than 200 homes on about half the 54-acre property.
But they can pat themselves on the back for creating a groundswell of opposition from citizens throughout the municipality, resulting in an active residents association that educated many about not-so-smart growth and bureaucratic duplicity. What they will try to hide is an accounting for the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to staff and consultants since 2005.
As busy beaver builders begin to make their marks on the edge of Echo Heights Forest, and candidates strut their stuff, it will be time for voters to look ahead and ask the contenders, “What’s the plan?” In the many years of debate over plans for the undeveloped forest there has been little discussion about the remaining parkland.
How will trails be maintained? Will invasive species be controlled? How will residents and, more importantly, Penelakut First Nation, be involved in creating this living legacy? Are there plans to educate the community (and themselves) about the treasures of this forest? Good on everyone for making the right decision – in the wrong way. Hopefully, we all have learned.