As the ongoing saga of the Capital Regional District’s efforts to implement a new management plan for Island View Beach continues, residents of the Saanich Peninsula shouldn’t expect any timely resolution to the situation, according to CRD director, Mike Hicks.
“I can tell you that people should enjoy their summer and relax a little bit. Go and enjoy the beach. This (the proposed management plan) isn’t going anywhere any time soon and, for the time being, nothing is going to change,” said Hicks.
The latest delay in adopting a management plan was precipitated at the July 12 meeting of the CRD Board, at which time they were slated to decide on the fate of the proposed plan, a plan that had already passed the Parks Committee of the CRD. All the sides were in place to make what they thought would be their last ditch presentations to the Board and no fewer than ten delegations spoke on the various issues.
But despite the previous approval of the plan by the Parks Committee, and despite the impassioned presentations to the Board, any decision on the plan had already been put on hold as a result of a letter received by the CRD from Chief Harvey Underwood of the Tsawout First Nation whose lands lie adjacent to Island View Park.
In the letter Chief Underwood and the Tsawout Land Manager, Gwen Underwood, said that the Tsawout First Nation does not support the draft management plan and called for meaningful engagement and consultation between the Tsawout and the CRD before the plan’s adoption is even considered by the CRD board.
The letter came despite a report tabled by CRD staff in January of 2017 (Summary of Engagement with Tsawout First Nation for Island View Beach Management Plan) in which staff detailed contact with the Tsawout dating back to 2011, when work to develop the plan was first started. The final line of section of that report read,
” Prior to the management plan being presented to the Regional Parks Committee for endorsement in November 2016, Regional Parks planning staff again contacted the Tsawout through their Lands Committee to determine whether they were interested in meeting again on the plan. Staff were advised that the Tsawout First Nation was not able to devote further attention to the plan at this time.”
According to Hicks, the problem may have been related to the reliance of the CRD on staff to negotiate the concerns of the First Nations neighbours of the park.
“The difference, I think, is that often it’s best if politicians deal with politicians, and staff with staff. We’ve now had a very productive meeting with the Tsawout that I attended with CRD Chair, Barb Desjardins. It was clear that they (the Tsawout) wanted to talk to the people who make the decisions and we’ve made the commitment to them that we won’t be referring this back to staff. We are going to find the solutions ourselves,” said Hicks.
Desjardins agreed that the first meeting with the Tsawout went a long way in developing an understanding of the issues as expressed by the Tsawout.
“One meeting isn’t going to give us a total understanding and it’s not going to resolve all the issues, but it’s a start,” she said.
“We have a responsibility to make sure that we have it right.”
“Those of us who love and use this park are going to remain vigilant and ensure that our voices have been heard when the CRD finally comes back to the table with a new plan,” said Austin.