LETTERS: Dumping and tourism

Weekly letters to the editor from within the Sooke community.

Re: Sooke tourism stilted by poor marketing (News, Aug. 12)

The problem with the relative lack of tourism in Sooke is not simply related to poor marketing or lack of communication between businesses and local government.

Although there is support for the notion of increasing tourism in Sooke, there is equal, or perhaps much higher support for actions, development and public spending that are of no interest to tourists and which discourage tourists from coming. These contradictory viewpoints are based on the lack of consensus about a future vision for Sooke.

Like all communities, Sooke is changing – the question is what kind of changes would we like to see, or at least what changes do we want to encourage or discourage.

When the official community plan (OCP) was being put together six years ago, there was a fair bit of discussion about this topic. The council of the day determined Sooke residents were divided, with half the community hoping for growth and development, along the lines of what’s occurring in Langford, and the other half hoping to retain some kind of rural character.

The compromise adopted in the OCP is for development in the core area (basically everything west of the river), and a continuation of rural characteristics everywhere else. Oh, and to make sure that no one gets left out, council decided Sooke should also be a thriving tourism centre combined with a well established visual and performing arts scene and a food security hub. It was pointed out at the time that some of these choices are contradictory, but council approved the OCP in 2010, and all subsequent ones, have chosen to ignore the contradictions.

The “growth and development” component of the vision is for even more car-oriented suburban subdivisions, at ever increasing densities. The majority of new Sooke residents are expected to commute to work each day. Such a vision does require a huge public investment in infrastructure.

But the growth and development component of the vision has the effect of overriding other possible directions.  I mean, when was the last time you seriously planned a vacation in the middle of a suburban subdivision? And while it may be possible to use public funds to provide tourist attractions, this will never work while the vast majority of public funds are being used to meet the needs of commuters.

Similarly, increased support for the arts or local agriculture could make significant differences in these areas, and could be of interest to tourists.

Various councils have picked which part of the vision they support and have consequently committed almost all discretionary public funding to be for the implementation of that vision. Fair enough – that is council’s decision to make. But they could at least be more upfront about these decisions – for example they could tell the Sooke Tourism Association that they are not going to support any plan to try to entice tourists to come visit Sooke’s new suburban subdivisions and fancy new highways through quiet residential neighbourhoods, nor can we afford to invest in any facilities or amenities that might be attractive to tourists.

Of course, Council could decide that it may be time to revisit this issue. They may have noticed that there isn’t a whole lot of support for growth and development, to the exclusion of all else. Maybe, they’ll even conclude that it is possible to have is a compromise vision and implementation plan that results in a Sooke that is truly unique and special.

Other communities have successfully redefined themselves and have reset their funding and support priorities. The one common component of this reconsideration process is a complete and open dialogue with residents. When the plan is developed and and supported by a broad cross-section of residents, then it is almost guaranteed to succeed.

Rick Gates

Sooke

 

If this is your couch – we don’t want it, either

We live in a small pristine community and do not appreciate people like you dumping your junk on our street just because you are too cheap to pay a small fee to take it to the dump.

Many of us were thoroughly disgusted when we found it on the morning of Aug. 24, haphazardly dumped at the end of our cul de sac, seven kilometres outside of Sooke.

Astrid Koenig

Sooke