Comox town hall. Black Press file photo

Comox town hall. Black Press file photo

Comox looking at proposed CVRD parks service; councillor seeks to include UNDRIP in framework

Coun. Stephanie McGowan proposed a motion to bring UNDRIP to the town’s framework

The Town of Comox is interested but wants more information from the Comox Valley Regional District about re-activating a regional parks service.

At the Jan. 13 Comox council meeting, council received a letter from the CVRD’s Chair Jesse Ketler regarding the proposed establishment of a parks service.

“The request from the CVRD breaths new life into a parks service that’s remained dormant for many, many years,” said Coun. Maureen Swift.

At a meeting in December, the CVRD board approved $25,000 for a study to consider the possibility of re-activating the service that went dormant after being established in 1971.

District staff noted there is a renewed interest in the service to create greenway links between municipalities and to acquire large land parcels of regional interest.

While a community parks service primarily benefits rural areas, a regional service is more widespread with all local governments contributing. Parks and trails under a regional service tend to focus on land for environmental protection or nature-based outdoor recreation.

The board sent a letter to the Town of Comox, City of Courtenay, and Village of Cumberland to gauge support for expediting the process to activate the service.

After reviewing the letter, Swift, who along with Coun. Ken Grant represents the town at the CVRD board, added she believes there are some pressing issues, such as Stotan Falls, and as such, some urgency to make a decision.

“I’m just not sure if we should be jumping in until we know what we’re jumping into.”

Grant said the proposed parks service came about because there have been several acquisition opportunities come to regional district and there’s been no function or money to buy any of them. He added the service was shut down was when the regional board was comprised of members from northern Island communities including Sayward and Tahsis.

“They were having a hard time … why would they buy a park in Union Bay? The area was just too vast to figure out how to make that equitable.”

He told council to think about the logistics in terms of a governance model – who would pay and how that would work, in addition to how it would be funded.

“Some of these parks are a lot of money – in the tens of millions of dollars so just to come to Comox and say ‘you owe us a third of whatever’ there’s got to be a function where we can raise some money for these things in order to pay. On its base it’s a good idea, but to jump into it too soon without doing the research is probably not such a great idea.”

Coun. Alex Bissinger inquired if a presentation from the CVRD could be made to the town prior to a decision, but Jordan Wall, the town’s CAO explained he doesn’t believe the district is at the point where they have answers to questions. He added the CVRD is looking to see if there are a set of circumstances where the community is willing to set up the service.

Mayor Russ Arnott directed Wall to send a letter to the CVRD with an expression of interest, but the town would need to know “the nuances of it.”

• • •

Following guidance from both the federal and provincial governments, Coun. Stephanie McGowan proposed a motion for council to bring forth the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework within the town.

She added UNDRIP was highlighted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as the first principal for reconciliation at all levels and all sectors of Canadian society.

It was officially adopted by the Government of Canada in 2016, and McGowan said as the town is home to many Indigenous members and it has identified building on the K’ómoks First Nation relationship as a strategic priority, the town should adopt UNDRIP as its framework for Indigenous reconciliation.

The motion will be discussed at the next council meeting.

• • •

The Town of Comox has officially proclaimed Feb. 1, 2021 as RCMP Appreciation Day.

Mayor Russ Arnott noted there is a desire to recognize and show appreciation for the RCMP and what they have done for the community.

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