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Incorporation: Island is Already an Almost-perfect Paradise

    Editorial & Opinions, Governance & Politics    August 22, 2017

In 1968 I moved from London, England up to the Arctic, to Old Crow, to do a photography assignment for the National Film Board for the summer months. On my way back to London, I stayed at a friend’s cottage in Vancouver, and somehow never went back to London.
Vancouver in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s charmed me with its neon, the old round house, the Sweeney’s Cooperage, the On-On, The Green Door and Foncie, the street photographer, the False Creek boatyards and the Ovaltine Café.

Then, one by one, they all disappeared, and one by one shiny new high-rises emerged.

In 1973 I moved to Victoria, charmed by the quaintness of the city, and I didn’t have to own a car, and could ride my bike everywhere, with very little car traffic. Then, slowly, after 15 years, many of the old heritage buildings downtown were demolished, or turned into shopping malls, and my neighbourhood gradually shifted from funky-run-down-affordable to upscale chic and more high-rises emerged.

In 1989 we moved to Salt Spring, where there was a lovely sense of quietude, camaraderie and natural beauty.
Today, 28 years later, the island is still charming, even more so, thanks to all the decisions we made as a community over the years. (I must confess that I dearly miss Wendy’s milkshakes at the old Ships Anchor restaurant, and the deluxe smoked ham hocks cured by Don at the Red and White grocery store.)

And thanks to our unique Islands Trust governance policy, with its preserve and protect mandate, our island has maintained its rural character, natural beauty, and peace and quietude, so rare in this crazy world of ours.

Now, I wonder if we were to become a municipality, if all this would slowly disappear.

After following the letters in this newspaper, over the past few months, I’m not sure if I understand, or agree with the benefits of becoming a municipality, or with their raison d’etre: “We need to take destiny into our own hands, and make our own on-island decisions without outside government interference.”

Now, all this time I thought that we were making our own decisions, without being a municipality, and without government interference, but with government largesse, to the tune of $60,000,000 since 2001!

So I thought I would make a list of a few of our community decisions, starting in 1989.

Public Buildings

  • In 1989 we made the decision to acquire land to build ArtSpring. In 1999 ArtSpring opened.
  • In 2005 we made the decision to acquire land to build our new library. In 2013 the library opened.
  • In 2004 we decided to build a new swimming pool. It opened in 2008.
  • In 2012 we saw the need for and made the decision to receive land to build a local food processing and storage facility. Construction is slated for this autumn.

Governance Decisions

  • In 1994, we made the decision to start work on updating our official community plan. With hundreds of hours, and 80 dedicated planning volunteers, we created a land-use planning document that protects and preserves our waterways, shoreline, sensitive ecosystems, forest lands, farm lands, watersheds and wetlands.
  • In 2005 we made the decision to support the new NAPTEC program, created by the Islands Trust to reduce property taxes by 65 per cent in return for covenanting privately owned lands in the Trust area.
  • In 2002 we made the decision to vote “no” in an incorporation referendum.
  • In 2008 we passed an updated OCP with new policies that include climate change, energy efficiency, food security and potable water.

Park and Greenspace Acquisition Decisions

  • Over the past 20 years we have protected 10,000 acres of green space on the island.
  • In 2001, hundreds of community members made the decision to stop the logging of 5,000 acres by the Texada Logging Company. We succeeded, and the Burgoyne Provincial Park was established.
  • In 2001 we made the decision to purchase the Maxwell Lake watershed from the Texada Logging Company.
  • We also made decisions to build a skate-board park, a disc golf park and an off-leash doggy park.

Various Community Decisions

  • We made the decision to establish the Salt Spring Transit bus system in 2008.
  • Over the past few years the community acquired indoor tennis courts, and squash courts, the sailing club boat moorage expansion, new fire trucks and equipment, new Lady Minto Hospital equipment, and bicycle and pedestrian pathways.

Affordable Housing Decisions

  • We made the decision to build Meadowbrook, Croftonbrook and Murakami Gardens, with more affordable housing projects underway.

Food and Farmland Decisions

  • In 1999 we decided to organize the first Salt Spring Island Apple Festival.
  • In 2010 we made the decision to move the Tuesday Farmers Market from the meadow to Centennial Park. It has now become a burgeoning enterprise — a haven for foodies, with fresh local produce and flowers, and gourmet delicacies of all sorts, and the best ice cream in the known universe!
  • In 2013 we made the decision to acquire farm-land in the Burgoyne Valley, which is leased to the community for farm use, and for allotment gardens.
  • Today, Salt Spring has become an almost perfect paradise, without being a municipality. Of course it would be very nice to have a laundromat and public showers, a cobbler, a fabric store, and … a baseball diamond!
    We can make it happen!

The writer lives at Walter Bay on Salt Spring.

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