After reaching out to residents, Esquimalt council has released a list of the community’s, and its own, priorities in a new Economic Development Strategy.
Still in its early stages, the planincludes all recommendations from residents who provided feedback for what they want the township to focus on. Other topics were formed at roundtable discussions which included council members, town staff, Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce, business owners, community associations and major industries.
Esquimalt Mayor Barbara Desjardins said that the next step is for council to workshop the document before sending it back to the public for more feedback, within the next two weeks.
Though the Economic Development Strategy will likely change before being implemented, one of the major themes it covers is making the township more green.
“I think that [Esquimalt] already has good, green values,” Desjardins said, “and we’re implementing them as we can—but we want to do more and we want to do better. As an old community, you have to do what you can to build up the infrastructure, but you have to be realistic.”
Plans on how to make Esquimalt greener include tax incentives and an award/recognition program to attract green businesses and streamlining the approval process for green building renovations.
Another area of focus is the E&N Rail Trail. Desjardins said that the trail provides unique opportunity for tourism, as it travels through Esquimalt and connects it to Victoria. Potential plans include a pub on the trail, a trackside art gallery and food trucks.
“The E&N Trail needs to be brought up to a better profile,” Desjardins said. “It’s a great opportunity to nab cyclists and get them to stop and check out our businesses and tourist attractions.”
Council also plans to tackle the negative perceptions of Esquimalt, and hopes that attracting young families will be the key to a new image. As well as promoting lower costs of living, several youth-based programs were listed, including a career mentorship program for students, and improving transit routes to nearby campuses.
“Esquimalt’s image is already morphing,” said Desjardins. “Everybody here knows it, but we need to make sure that people outside come here and experience it for themselves.”