A letter about Town trails was presented to Qualicum Beach Council at their April 22, 2020 meeting. The letter, written by the former chair of the 2018 Official Community Plan (OCP) review committee, was reproduced in its entirety and attached to the Council meeting agenda. However, Council did not address the substance of the letter, instead it veered off into a brief discussion about how landscaping could not be done until mid-September — see minute 12:39 of the Council meeting video record.
This is an ongoing multi-year project, with each segment seeming to generate more criticism from an ever-broader mix of citizens with a lengthening list of legitimate concerns and, as such, we believe the concerns raised in this letter warrant closer examination by the citizens of Qualicum Beach. Ed.
Kevin Monahan writes, “At the time I wrote the letter to Mayor and Council about the School Connector Route Trail, I was not aware that the Age-Friendly Transportation Plan (AFTP) was being used as justification for this trail development. On reading the AFTP, I found that it simply refers to completing the particular segment of the School Connector Route Trail that was under development in a specific year.”
Monahan continues, “The detail of the School Connector Route Trail is specified in only one place, the School Connector Route Plan, which can be found at the Town’s School Connector Route page. Note that this web page itself makes the massively misleading statement that ‘This project has been in process since 2012. It was included in the Official Community Plan and in the Age-Friendly Transportation Plan. The Transportation Plan has had numerous updates that have included plans for this trail connector route.‘ ”
In fact, it seems there has been no consultation about trails with the public at all since 2012 and, most importantly, no consultation about the changes subsequently made to our in-town trails by the Town of Qualicum Beach. Using this sleight-of-hand, the Town is able to imply that the public approves of and has had input into the startling changes now being made to our in-town trail system, when that is definitely not the case.
The following is the letter that I sent to the Mayor and Council of Qualicum Beach, and that was briefly referenced at their April 22, 2020 meeting:
“It is with dismay that I have seen the School Connector Route Trail being developed. In my view the recent works at Harlech and Cedar are far more extensive than would be necessary to create a connector trail, but these works are miniscule when compared to the clearing that has taken place between Arbutus and the head of the Grandon Creek Trail on Hoy Lake Rd West.
I tried to find the documents that might indicate what the extent of the trail development would be. It was difficult because the links on the Town’s homepage to the relevant documents were broken. When I finally found the School Connector Route Plan and read it, I was appalled. It sets out medium-term and long-term objectives for the School Connector Route.
Council appears to be going directly to the long-term proposal, which includes a 3-metre wide paved surface from the Museum to Arbutus Road along the route of the current woodland trail on the north side of the railway tracks. This would convert a woodland experience to a single lane paved road and would entail a major retaining wall be created to support the roadway. The result would be the loss of hundreds (if not thousands) of trees, and the loss of a significant asset enjoyed by numerous townsfolk.
I was also appalled to discover that this document was written in 2012, and has not, I believe, been brought to public attention since that time. The Town’s web-page on the subject states, “This project has been in process since 2012. It was included in the Official Community Plan and in the Age-Friendly Transportation Plan. The Transportation Plan has had numerous updates that have included plans for this trail connector route.”
I take exception to this statement. While there are numerous references in the OCP to further trail development, nowhere does the plan specify what is meant by the term “multi-use trail”. The plan does not indicate the extent of tree-cutting that would be required, nor does it specify that the multi-use trail will have a 3-metre wide paved surface.
The same is true of the Age-Friendly Transportation Plan. I find it interesting that even though I was the chair of the OCP review committee, tasked with providing advice to the Town on the consultations for the 2018 OCP, I knew nothing about the School Connector Route Trail. Nor was it brought to the committee’s attention. Trails were only discussed in a general sense.
The only document that gives any indication of the extent of works required to carry out the plan is the School Connector Route Plan.
It is not reasonable to rely on 8-year old consultations, especially for a project that raises controversy as this one has done. Many things can change in 8 years—Climate change is accelerating, and there is a much greater awareness of the positive role played by trees and greenspace in the semi-urban environment. Among the projects brought forward by the Qualicum Beach Strategic Plan are the Tree Policy/Bylaw, and the extension of the trail network. In most people’s minds there would seem to be no conflict between the two. Yet, the recent construction makes it clear that there is definitely a conflict between the two initiatives. It makes no sense to proceed with the Connector Route Trail, which involves large-scale tree-cutting, prior to development of the Tree Bylaw. Consequently the Town has an obligation to renew discussions with the community with respect to this project and the development of Tree Policy/Bylaws for the Town. Consultations must include the extent of required tree-cutting and whether a 3-metre wide paved trail is necessary to achieve public goals.
Otherwise, Council risks sending the message that the Town wishes to push through this trail project regardless of public opinion regarding transportation and tree cover in Qualicum Beach.
I urge Council to halt all further work on the School Connector Route until such time as renewed consultations on the School Connector Route and the Tree Policy/Bylaw are completed.”