Implied support for parks plan

Public consultation yields little but positive comments for strategy

Visitors to Gonzales Hill Regional Park can find this view overlooking Gonzales Bay. Gonzales Hill is the CRD’s only regional park in Oak Bay.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

That appears to be the message coming from the public when it comes to the Capital Regional District’s management of regional parks and trails.

The CRD recently released a draft copy of its 10-year Regional Parks Strategic Plan. Judging by the response – or lack thereof – that came during the report’s public consultation phase, people appear satisfied with the direction being taken.

The document, prepared with the help of a volunteer Citizen Advisory Panel, re-emphasizes many of the key principles of the CRD’s last strategic plan, also known as the Master Plan, which was created in 2000.

“The majority of the public felt that Regional Parks is on the right path and nature protection and conserving biodiversity should be Regional Parks’ top priority,” panel chair Dave Chater wrote in the plan’s foreword.

The level of participation in the plan’s public consultation phase appears to reinforce Chater’s statement. Despite providing numerous opportunities for members of the public to have their say on important parks issues, the response was modest at best.

“I would say that the response we got from people is ‘we’re on the right track’ and to keep moving forward,” said Jeff Ward, Regional Parks’ manager of planning, conservation and development. “The citizen advisory panel was there to read what the community was saying, and I think that’s what they said.”

Support for the current parks mandate is one of several key points in the draft plan.

It also emphasizes the need to protect the environment while still providing people with adequate recreational opportunities.

“We recognize that these lands have many different qualities about them,” Ward said. “They supply an area for fish (and) salmon-bearing streams, provide a home for wildlife, even help sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gases.

“But they’re also good for the health of people.”

The plan also focuses on making full use of existing parkland over the next five years. With a land acquisition fund that’s fully committed at the moment, it’s time to open new parks and manage the existing ones, Ward said.

Another major principle guiding the strategic plan is that ‘nature needs half.’ The concept proposes that half of the region’s land and water base should eventually be protected. Currently, about 20 per cent of the CRD is protected. The regional parks office hopes to bring that number up to 50 per cent by the end of this century.

The draft plan was received by the CRD at its Aug. 10 board meeting and in all likelihood, it will be approved alongside a supplementary financial plan early next year.

editor@oakbaynews.com

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