Bikes will be rolling in abundance along the streets of Cumberland and Courtenay Sept. 25, but not so much in Comox, as the inaugural Car Free Sunday has been cancelled in the town.
The event — which was scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. in the three Valley municipalities — will not take place in Comox, despite support from council, organizer Andrew Gower announced in a press release Thursday morning.
“… Some of the downtown business owners were very opposed and quite confrontational over the idea,” he stated in the release. “With the limited time remaining before Sept. 25, we simply do not have the time to win over the business owners and organize a fun, inclusive event.”
He noted the real disappointment will obviously be with the many residents of Comox who were excited and looking forward to the event.
Gower added in a phone interview he wasn’t completely surprised by the reaction of the Comox Business In Action, and admitted he thought there might be some resistance.
“I heard some concerns and respect them, but I’m not sure if they’re totally valid. There was a sense of some hostility … but it’s a matter of timing. We want to show that it’s a good event but we don’t have much time, and thought our energy would be better used for the other two locations,” he said.
“We’re running out of time, and it makes sense to ensure the other two events are big successes.”
Tia Otter, president of the Comox BIA, said the general consensus of its members was that there was not enough time and information given to the organization to support the closure of a portion of Comox Avenue.
“If there was a guarantee that people would come downtown, but (the organizer) couldn’t guarantee that. There’s a vested interest in these business and it’s how people make their livelihood,” she said.
Otter said the first time she met with Gower was late August, nearly a month before the proposed event. She added there was not enough time to reach an agreement with the members and Gower.
“We heard about the initial press release through the paper — he didn’t come to us. The problem is there is a lack of information about the event, and what the concept is all about,” she explained, and added there is no hostility between the BIA and the organizer.
“Our board wants to work with events to make people want to come to downtown Comox,” she said.
Ken Grant, Comox councillor and Town liaison to the Comox BIA, echoed Otter’s sentiments, and added while he did receive significant feedback from the business community with concerns, they are in support community events, such as the Comox Cup road hockey tournament this past June.
“The BIA wants to make clear that they’re not against community events, but they do have concerns,” said Grant. “There’s nothing confrontational, but they’re more concerned; they don’t have the full grasp of the event given the short timeframe. There’s just not enough time to organize and address the concerns. The (Comox Cup) took a year and a half to organize.”
He said the BIA will examine how the event unfolds in Courtenay and Cumberland, and are certainly open to working with Gower next year to re-examine if the event could happen in Comox.
For more information about the Courtenay and Cumberland Car Free Sunday events, visit www.imaginecomoxvalley.ca.