Sooke is growing fast and the draft OCP attempts to direct development to the Town Core. In Sooke, rural has become urban in a short period of time. As such, every speck of open space parkland needs to be saved for future generations. This park is the largest open space park in the core and its preservation is critical for a walkable community, now and for many, many years into the future. Long-term thinking is required.
The AAP voting process is not being conducted with full public engagement as directed by Sooke’s Parks & Trails Masterplan. John Philips Memorial Park is one of only two parks specifically referenced in the plan as requiring masterplan studies with full public engagement. Widespread public awareness of the issue came only after Council’s decision to approve the clubhouse and proceed with a short 30-day negative vote procedure.
Council has made few attempts to engage the public in their decision to allow the Lions clubhouse in the park and no studies have been undertaken to assess the effects of the large building and parking areas on the park’s fragile pond ecosystem. We all recognize that the pond and wetland ecosystem does not end at the edges of the pond and includes the adjacent fir stands, hedges and meadows. The town’s website details the natural significance of this wetland park, noting the 83 species of birds and amphibians that live there. Sooke’s Declaration of a Climate Emergency requires bold action to preserve and protect our natural environment both urban and rural. The draft OCP recommends such action.
I understand from discussions with Lions club members that the location was proposed by Council and that alternative sites were not offered. It is sad that this town can not find any suitable land for the Lions project but must take from our inventory of town core public open space. Surely this valuable parkland should not be rezoned and given away but must be preserved for public use now and in the future.
The only info by the town on this project is in the Sooke Mirror News, District notice and on the town’s Rain Forest Meets the Sea website. There is no sign in the park either outlining the area or detailing the proposed new uses or on the town’s Let’s Talk website.