Letter: Reconsider making Taylor Park into parking lot

Truly an ugly vision on more than one level

Reconsider making Taylor Park into parking lot

Dear CVRD board members:

I am writing to express my disappointment in the recent CVRD decision to allow the five acre wetland area in Shawnigan Lake referred to as Taylor Park to be re-purposed into a 100 vehicle parking lot, and request that the board review the matter and overturn its own decision.

I wonder how many people who apply for rezoning comply with requirements by turning over more than the requested amount of land in return for being allowed to subdivide or develop their land. If that is a common practice I can only say that it is certainly not something that is public knowledge, in my experience.

No matter the answer, I applaud Shawn Taylor for his additional 3.1 acre land donation above the 1.9 required acres with his intention of preserving the total five acres as a natural wetland area within a public park. And yes, the additional land was obviously donated even if not officially designated as such. Semantics may be of utmost importance in legal matters, but in this case, in the hearts and minds of many, not so much.

Land is expensive, and as a Valley resident I am more than happy to express my appreciation for Taylor’s willingness to go that extra mile to ensure the natural state of the land would be preserved in perpetuity. As an aside, if he benefited by way of a tax deduction or tax credits, well good for him. It still will not compensate him for the value of the land he donated.

As someone who frequently visits the Kinsol Trestle and walks numerous parts of the Cowichan Valley Trail along with family and friends, I am very disheartened to contemplate a destroyed habitat hidden beneath a swath of pavement and a bunch of tour buses. Truly an ugly vision on more than one level.

Taylor has publicly stated that he was naive about the CVRD honouring his intentions regarding his extra land donation. I certainly don’t feel that he was naive and question whether or not he was told in plain language at the time that there was no guarantee that the natural wetlands would be preserved. I can’t imagine someone, upon hearing such, would willingly proceed with such a large and unrequired donation.

It is very disconcerting to think that the public would feel it has to pick its way through a CVRD minefield to see if there is some undisclosed information bomb that might detonate sometime soon. If you do not work to overturn the CVRD’s decision and if the wetlands are allowed to disappear on your watch, who now would ever trust the CVRD to not go against the wishes of donors to preserve precious habitats?

I am very happy that so many areas of the Valley are still forested and natural and that the CVRD has shown foresight in trying to establish and maintain various ways to access them that are not predicated on destroying other habitats in need of protection. Kudos to you all for your part in that.

But please remember that nature-loving residents are counting on you to say no to ideas that sound pretty good at first glance, but may actually open the door to an eventual onslaught of questionable development that crushes nature along the way. In this case, the crushing would be immediate and that is why many people in the area have become upset. I have also not heard of any environmental reports, cost estimates or public notices and wonder why not.

We need to be able to celebrate when people do good things to make nature more accessible. Unfortunately, that seems not to always be the case in the Valley. For example, Satellite Park’s signage showing and thanking those responsible for establishing the trail from Telegraph Road to the subdivision has been replaced with nary a mention of those who worked hard to make it happen. Actions such as that not only disrespectfully erase an interesting tidbit of local history but also prevent locals from being inspired to make other meaningful contributions to their communities.

I would like to think that Taylor Park could symbolize what can happen when a local government reconsiders its decision after hearing the pleas of local residents. Reconsidering does not need to be a sign of weakness or a symbol of some kind of defeat or poor judgment, but rather an affirmation that those in charge are willing to acknowledge that there is more than one way to achieve a goal.

Destroying nature that people could experience and enjoy in order to then establish a way for other people to experience and enjoy other nature is not a wise trade-off. Please go back to the drawing board and come up with another way to accomplish both things.

I have learned that you just have to keep going when someone says something like, “We couldn’t do THAT! It would mean that we would have to do ____.” That may be true, so then ask how you could accomplish ____ and just keep going until you find something that is possible. Trust me, there is a way. Surely that whopping government grant could be used in ways that would not destroy a sensitive ecological habitat area.

Thank you for considering my remarks.

Jackie Barker

Cobble Hill