Some residents in the south end of Courtenay want to know why the planned seaside trail extension will be so close to their homes.
The extension for the South Courtenay Riverway will actually be on City property but will be roughly 50 feet closer than the makeshift route people having been using at present.
In a couple of cases, the property line cuts through flower beds, as well as a shed and even someone’s deck. The residents point out the structures have existed for many years, even decades. They called a news conference on Friday to make their point and express frustration over what they see as the city’s unwillingness to compromise on ideas such as a land swap.
“They’re really just being arbitrary and unfair,” says resident Sandra Wagner.
The residents put up tape and other markers at the event to show the property lines and where they think the trail could be built.
Brad Amor has lived at the location for 18 years. The proposal would run right through his deck, according to where the tape shows. This means he would have to take down the deck on his home.
He also had questions about what the planned trail route will mean for his own privacy as trail users stroll by.
“They can see what I’m eating for dinner they’re so close,” he said.
The stretch of land in question, in the 3500 block of South Island Highway, affects five properties, and four have asked for land to be swapped. They have offered to commit $10,000 to help cover any legal or surveying costs.
They say they have also been told the matter has been discussed in camera. Land discussions are usually held in camera for local government, with motions later being brought forward at open meetings.
“We’ve been trying to get them to talk to us for a year,” says Sally Roth. “We’ve tried for the past year to negotiate with the city.”
Her husband Don adds they do not know why the City will not address their concerns.
“It remains a mystery to us,” he said.
The trail, itself, is not the issue.
“We do support the trail. We will enjoy it. We will use it,” said Jennifer Sadee.
The residents even brought out trail users to show support. Tom Lagemann does not live in the area but uses the stretch. He would like to see the official trail stay closer to the current stretch people use, which he says is “already perfect,” and he thinks the current City plans will cost more money than the City needs to spend.
Sadee and her husband Robert think the residents could work out an agreement with the City that would please everyone.
“It can be a win-win situation,” Robert said.
The message they have got from the City is that it wants to move the trail inland because of concerns of global warming and rising sea levels, but they feel there is a point halfway where the City could put the trail, without it coming so close to their backyards. They feel many trail users do not know how far the trail will be moved away from the shoreline.
A City spokesperson responded to several of the residents’ concerns, saying it did offer encroachment agreements with three of the owners.
Regarding land swaps, the City’s position is that it would not be in the best interests of the wider community. Moving the trail closer to the water, the City said, would leave the trail at greater risk from sea-level rise, erosion and damage to existing vegetation that helps protect from coastal erosion. It also would pose a greater risk of disturbing sensitive archaeological sites in the area.
The City added that it had good feedback from other property owners through public consultation last fall on the connector trail issue.
Finally, it also expects to post information about the route on the City of Courtenay website based on input from a landscape architect, archaeologists and environmental consultant in the coming weeks.