–Mick Rhodes, Sooke
Earlier, Sooke PocketNews had the courtesy to publish my letter Consider revisioning Lot A and Mariners Village. The letter ended with the question “Will everyone, from all ages, walks of life and the stakeholder groups pull together, or will we individually blindly turn away from this golden opportunity? It might cost you as little as ‘a 6 pak 4 a park 2 day’. You can open your eyes now.”
Sooke PocketNews has graciously agreed to publish an addendum to that letter. I hope you, the reader will take the time to read this in its entirety and then – take the time to respond with your ‘views.’ Reader input is encouraged which I hope may lead to further clarity and insight which may galvanize public opinion; and in turn, lead to the DOS examining the idea of having a waterfront park with public amenities blossom in the ‘heart of Sooke’.
So let me begin with – where I left off…“You can open your eyes now”. What you may see when you open your eyes may seem to you as an illusion. But isn’t illusion the flip side of reality? Illusion ~ focuses the mind to look for clarity ~ which can then produce insight ~ which can lead to ~ reality.
Have you read our Official Community Plan? Sprinkled through out this thoughtful OCP is a unifying vision of our collective minds as to the future of Sooke – an imaginative tapestry of hope and perseverance. Here are some glimmering gleanings of ‘hope and perseverance’ contemplated by the DOS.
TOURISM ~ OCP 2014
Sooke has an emerging tourism industry. Although Sooke is predominantly located on the north shore of the Sooke Harbour and Basin, waterfront access is not abundant, nor consistent. The community has expressed a great desire to increase public access to the waterfront and for creation of waterfront trails for tourists and residents alike.
TOWN CENTRE – OCP 2014 – 7.4.3 OBJECTIVES
- Land use and form and character guidelines shall be consistent with that of the Town Centre Plan
- To create a Town Centre that is strongly connected to the waterfront
- To create a coherent and identifiable “West Coast” character as a theme that promotes Sooke’s natural beauty,
cultural and maritime history
MULTI FAMILY RESIDENTIAL – OCP 2014
7.6 DEVELOPMENT PERMIT AREA (DPA) #3
18.104.22.168 Protection of View Corridors
- a) Maintain, enhance or frame views to natural areas, especially Sooke Harbour and Basin and the Olympic Mountains
- Place buildings on sites to maintain existing view corridors or open up new ones
I also direct your attention to:
District of Sooke 2016 Strategic Plan.
Our Official Community Plan (2014) is critical to our community vision and we will ensure it stays current enhancing community liveability. The District will work towards
- making Sooke a vibrant and accessible community
- focus on making the town centre vibrant and accessible
- improve opportunities for residents to gather and connect
- take steps to protect Sooke’s natural beauty
These OCP ‘catch phrases’ conjure up some good talking points and there are plenty more to be gleaned from the OCP. Incidentally, after the Fall civic election the DOS will be reviewing the OCP and updating it to reflect the ‘changing environment’ in Sooke.
I turn your attention (again) to the ‘what if scenario’ – what would the park encompass and look like? Please excuse my nearsighted vision but if you would cast your gaze on the accompanying representations I’ve drawn up – you might get the picture. Because, I’m only trying to open up a dialogue with anyone who has read this letter thus far, I ask you – what do you see; what should be left out; and/or, what do you think should be added that I left out?
I will leave it to you to decide the merits of what I’ve proffered here. I repeat, it’s really my intention to get your feedback and from all interested parties and stakeholders. Please join in or let others know who might be interested (or disagree) with the idea of a waterfront park.
What’s really at issue here is how the illusion can become the reality – who’s going to buy into it!?
Ahah…I can hear the collective chorus. ”Impossible!”, as some would say while others might chime in, “Too expensive. I’m not paying for this pie in the sky scheme” and still others, “What’s in it for me”. I understand all of these collective remonstrations – it does ‘appear’ at first as a farfetched (add your preferred adjective) idea! There are many valid possible reasons for this resistance, from fear that the ‘project’ will be too difficult to a disbelief in the very work one is being asked to do. But I put it to you, the ‘naysayers’ – do your civic duty! Study this proposal and then share your ‘feedback’ with the SPN and anyone who might be interested, including the DOS. Valid and valued critique added to the issue at hand can lead to greater clarity and in turn can lead to better informed decisions.
For those in favour of a park, I direct you to please read the former letter to the SPN – Consider re-visioning Lot A and Mariners Village. It was on further reflection that another ‘what if scenario’ unfolded in my mind. I decided to look at how various levels of government ‘chip in’ to reduce the cost of local civic projects that would have in all probability, languished due to insufficient funding sources.
With a civic election looming on the horizon and a federal election in the Fall of 2019, what I found excited me and induced me to approach the SPN again and share these findings with the voters of Sooke. Following is a list of principal funding sources but it is certainly not inclusive of what might be out there. Most governmental departments (particularly those dealing with infrastructure funding) regularly announce new funding opportunities on an ad hoc basis. Smart municipal governing bodies will usually pay close attention to their higher level counterparts intentions; because when government programs expire or the funding is exhausted, the entity doling out the grants on occasion will be directed to continue the program with a fresh cash infusion of new government funds.
I refer you to an excellent guide referencing federal funding sources – please google Comprehensive Municipal Guide to Federal Funding 2017. A complete list of federal funding opportunities can be found here
Gas Tax Fund (Federal) (administered by the Union of BC Municipalities)
The Gas Tax Fund is a $2 billion/year transfer-based investment which flows directly to cities and communities. The federal government has allowed for any programs that are coming to an end, with funds remaining to be flowed through the GTF, rather than lapsing. SEAPARC by the way accessed this fund ($1.24 million) for its latest expansion, a gym facility.
The Municipal Goods and Services Tax (GST) Rebate: a 100% rebate of the GST paid by Municipalities, which amounts to about $850 million annually, will continue to be made available each year for municipal projects, confirmed in Budget 2017. Incorporated municipal bodies, such as cities, towns, villages, and metropolitan authorities may apply.
BCF-Small Communities Fund
The New Building Canada Fund -Small Communities Fund provides $1 billion for contribution funding for infrastructure projects in small communities with populations of 100,000 or less. The SCF program supports projects of national, regional and local significance that contribute to economic growth, a clean environment and stronger communities.
Recreation and Culture Funding – Bilateral Agreements
$1.3 billion will be provided to provinces and territories through integrated bilateral agreements, on a base plus per capita allocation basis. This investment will be delivered through the second phase of social infrastructure funding. Municipalities will be required to apply through their Provinces and Territories to receive this funding.
These federal government programs will provide funding for projects as follows:
- up to 40 per cent federal funding for projects undertaken with municipal partners
- up to 50 per cent federal funding for projects with provincial partners
- up to 75 per cent federal funding for projects with Indigenous/ Territorial partners
Another excellent possible funding opportunity and a ‘natural fit’ is the CRD Regional Parks Land Acquisition Fund which stated in its 2017 Annual Report that it had an accumulated surplus of $69.7 million. The DOS could hypothetically approach the CRD to buy the entire Rowanwood property holdings at the former Mariners Village site. Later, the CRD could sell it back to the DOS after the municipality had procured alternative government funding or loans. The bottom quarter of the Rowanwood property already has a covenant in place that protects the treed foreshore area and could ultimately remain as a CRD park and trail acquisition.
Upon further examination, the 2017 Annual Report states – “Strategic Priority 4 of the Strategic Plan is to “Prepare for Future Land Acquisitions.” The report also refers to “First Nations Interests” – “The land and water in many regional parks is important to the First Nations in whose traditional territory these parks are located. First Nations have a close connection to these natural areas, which have valued resources, both tangible and intangible, that help define and support First Nations culture. In regional parks, there is an opportunity to work with First Nations in a manner that supports maintenance and enhancement of their cultural well-being and continued connection to places they have valued for thousands of years.”
Perhaps the T’Sou-ke band council could be invited by the DOS to form a economic partnership in applying for infrastructure grants or other related funding sources. It could go a long way to garner reconciliation with the original inhabitants that occupied these lands and waters and enhance their presence and participation in the community’s welfare.
In closing, I encourage you to please go look for yourself. Walk the land and explore the terrain. From the top of Sooke Road the property drops 30 meters (approx 100 feet) to the foreshore. Randomly stop here and there and close your eyes. Imagine the potential…then open your eyes. What do you see?