A regional parks service could offer elected officials a way to protect and preserve natural areas, and to develop a long-term network of greenways and trails in the Comox Valley.
Alana Mullaly, general manager of planning and development services, said this service concerns the big picture in terms of collaboration and decision-making around land acquisition — and supporting watershed health, First Nations reconciliation and climate change mitigation.
“A service of this kind would afford you and future decision-makers the opportunity to establish regional connectivity for the purposes of recreation, habitat conservation and active transportation,” Mullaly said at committee of the whole June 28. “A regional park service could give us the ability to enhance livability of this place for at least the next seven generations.”
The recommended voting arrangement is a two-thirds supermajority. Other regional districts examined in a study employ a weighted vote with a majority threshold. However, Comox desires a voting structure that would enable the town and one other jurisdiction to defeat recommendations at the committee level, along with a requirement that a land acquisition strategy, that includes connectivity through greenways, be developed and agreed upon before establishing the service. This arrangement would require a 75 per cent approval threshold, resulting in the City of Courtenay having veto power on its own.
Comox director Maureen Swift does not think directors should fear a 75 per cent ask. If Courtenay were not in favour, then Comox should not proceed with a land purchase.
“I think our citizens cherish every effort to preserve our parkland,” Swift said. “But given the no maximum requisition and no ability to leave the service once it’s established, and our endless opportunities to acquire land, this service is going to be likely challenged with lots of tough decisions going forward. To require 75 per cent approval, I think, is a good safeguard going forward.”
Staff outlined three options to consider on service decisions and recommendations: proceed with status quo of two-thirds approval; 75 per cent approval; or 75 per cent approval on resolutions about the acquisition of property, and two-thirds on other decisions and recommendations. Comox director Ken Grant feels the third option is a good compromise.
“I think once you purchase a park, it’s incumbent upon you to look after it anyway,” he said.
Courtenay directors Doug Hillian and Will Cole-Hamilton agreed that Option 3 makes the most sense.
Area C director Edwin Grieve said directors are focusing on what could go wrong instead of concentrating on what could go right.
“Why don’t we get this thing going?” he said. “It’s a hypothetical discussion. …This isn’t a function to rely on every year, it’s more like every decade.”
The CVRD board will revisit the issue at a future meeting.