The recent controversy over the maple tree in front of the Island Savings Centre is the latest rerun of a drama that has regularly taken place in our community for decades. Local politicians make a decision, members of the public insist that there is a better way to support community or environmental values, the politicians insist that economic values are more important, and the situation escalates with increasing anger and frustration.
Past examples of this drama in North Cowichan have included converting most of Maple Mountain Centennial Park to municipal forest, selling the railroad right-of-way along Lane Road which could have been part of the Trans Canada Trail, approving the now-defunct Cliffs over Maple Bay, and the current council approving the proposed Berkey’s Corner development, in spite of sound environmental objections and strong community opposition.
Political processes are seldom effective in protecting ecological and community values against the forces of “development”. Our politicians are trying to do their best, but can’t be trusted to take a long-term view and put nature and people ahead of financial values. This is why, in 1995, a group of citizens joined together to create the Cowichan Community Land Trust so that education, research, land acquisition, and conservation covenants could be used to protect, in perpetuity, the natural places we value.
I urge the many people who have been frustrated by government decisions to direct their anger in more positive directions.
Become members, donors, volunteers, or supporters of the Cowichan Land Trust or one of the other local conservation and stewardship groups. Join like-minded people in identifying what needs saving before it is slated for development and then protecting the things we love when political leaders can’t or won’t do it.