Gathering around a beach fire has got to be one of life’s simplest pleasures and oldest family traditions. It is also one of the most inexpensive, accessible activities in the Comox Valley. The CVRD’s justification for discontinuing its beach fire program at Goose Spit Park and Little River Park is baffling.
In March of last year, the CVRD cancelled the 2021 beach fire program under the pretense of supporting public health measures (propane fires were permitted, meaning gatherings could take place, just not around beach fires). In December, the CVRD clarified it planned to resume the program dependent on budget approval, so it seemed the issue was cost. Now the CVRD has announced its decision to permanently end the program, this time citing “air quality objectives” and funding for “other parks land acquisitions.”
Surely the CVRD does not believe removing a dozen fire rings will lead to any measurable change in the Valley’s air quality? Beach fires are a drop-in-the-bucket when compared to the plumes of smoke emitted from backyard burning; if air quality is the concern, the CVRD has bigger fires to extinguish.
Area B director, Arzeena Hamir, offered some clarification in response to a Feb. 11 Facebook post by Town of Comox Mayor, Russ Arnott. She explained that “a number of constituents” had expressed concern related to smoke during the summer months with, “a heavy burden borne by folks living just behind the Spit in Croteau Beach.”
This leaves the impression the decision was made not to improve air quality for the Valley, but for a handful of constituents living near Goose Spit. The beach fire rings are closed much of July and August due to fire restrictions, so it’s hard to comprehend how they are responsible for summer air quality concerns.
Ms. Hamir also pointed out that the bill for this program – reported to be $75,000 annually – was paid for by CVRD residents and stated, “rural residents are allowed to light fires in our own backyards. We don’t need to go to the Spit to do so,” suggesting CVRD residents do not use the beach fire rings. No consultation process was communicated, so it is unclear whether CVRD residents were ever asked. If costs need saving, perhaps the CVRD should take a page from nearby jurisdictions such as Campbell River or the Town of Comox, where beach fires are less regulated and largely self-policed.
We are a community of multiple jurisdictions, with wonderful things for families to do in Comox, Courtenay, Cumberland and the CVRD. We all foot the bill for some of those things, making our broader community more enjoyable for everyone. I urge the CVRD to consult a wider representation of its residents, and consider the impact of the program’s cancellation on our broader community before making this decision.
A chanqe.org petition has been started for anyone wanting to express support for the program’s continuation. Area B residents are encouraged to send any feedback directly to Arzeena Hamir.