Like last year, 2021 has not failed to challenge us, however, we have much to be grateful for.
We started the year with significant restrictions, including being unable to have members of council or the public in person at the council meetings. This year, we were able to welcome people back into council chambers and our facilities. It has been absolutely wonderful to see more of our community face to face again.
In the midst of the pandemic, the community and volunteer spirit continued. Events like Buccaneer Days, our first mural festival, the Memorial Park Music Fest, Ribfest and our Celebration of Lights brought us together through creative resourcefulness.
The year saw the opening of the town square project. With new neighbours added, Gallery Splash exhibits, and a coffee shop, we begin to see the extraordinary opportunity that a town square offers the community. It also saw the new Urgent and Primary Care Centre open, a way to provide much-needed medical support to families and individuals in Esquimalt.
Real estate and development interest remain strong in Esquimalt providing much needed housing options and opportunities as well as an increase in commercial space. Council has been and continues to be focused on adding a balance of options for housing across spectrum of ownership and affordability, including our new detached accessory dwelling unit bylaw. We are actively working with community partners like South Island Prosperity Partnership to keep economic development top of mind.
Some examples of the Township’s own growth are the Gorge Pavilion – due to open in early 2022 – the new library space and the start of our new multipurpose public safety building.
Our dedicated staff continue to care for and enhance our parks and natural areas through restoration work and beautification. If you haven’t stopped by to see the owl boxes at Saxe Point, I recommend you do.
We sought public input on our active transportation plan and fire services in 2021 and are going back to the public for input on police services in 2022. We appreciate everyone who takes the time to share their ideas in these important initiatives. The coming year will be busy for all as we close this term of council. Our work on climate mitigation and adaptation, and on truth and reconciliation, are important.
COVID removed our opportunities to meet face to face with Songhees and Esquimalt chiefs and council, but with the horrific discoveries at residential schools this summer, now more than ever we need to educate ourselves and take guidance from First Nations.
As we reflect on what we have achieved and accomplished in 2019-2021, I must express council’s gratitude to staff for the significance of this work all on top of an ongoing and shifting public health emergency.
Barb Desjardins is the mayor of Esquimalt.