Rural right vs urban might

Another view

Last week the Juan de Fuca Land use Committee met to consider a development proposal to build tourist cabins along the Juan de Fuca Trail.

If the bused-in crowd from Victoria is to be believed, disaster is imminent.

It is claimed this will be a “commuter subdivision, vacation home corridor, and the next Mississagua,” and this development will “lead the way for other developers to snatch up the adjoining lands and apply for re-zoning; bringing on more development.”

The truth is this is the only private land along the trail. There are no adjoining lands to “snatch up,” it’s all Crown Land, about 300,000 acres of it, so there is never going to be a “corridor” to anywhere. In fact, the only other parcels in the Rural Resource Lands that were released from the TFL are around Port Renfrew.

It is claimed that the presence of the cabins will ruin the “wilderness experience” for hikers.

In fact, people who hike the trail already mingle with day users at Sombrio, Mystic Beach, Bear Beach, and China Beach, among others. People don’t feel they have had their “wilderness experience” ruined because of it. The multi-use nature of the trail because of it’s multiple entrance points and proximity to Highway 14 is what differentiates it from the West Coast Trail. You don’t see the China Beach campground or the Sombrio parking lot from the trail. These cabins will be situated above the trail in much the same manner. The development will make more of the trail accessible to people of all age groups and physical abilities to enjoy, and not just be “the perfect peak experience for somebody from London, Berlin or New York on a wilderness hike” as the American funded Dogwood Initiative opined in a recent Vancouver Sun article.

Hopefully, the province will build campgrounds at Sombrio and Parkinsons someday. Would that too be opposed? Unfortunately, the campsites and RV sites (the most affordable option) that were in the original development plan were taken out because of opposition from guess who? Fortunately, similar to the popular Point No Point, a restaurant is still in the plan.

This plan has long term benefits for the community, with an estimated $50 million dollars worth of economic activity over the 15-year build out. Beyond the building of the cabins, those staying in the cabins will be buying supplies and services in Sooke and from the surrounding marinas, etc., well into the future.

Sooke and Port Renfrew are tourism. As a local logger put it, we have about five years of logging left and then it’s 50 years till the next harvest. Tofino and Ucluelet have prospered and grown because of the Pacific Rim National Park, which was the model that inspired the creation of the Juan De Fuca Trail in the first place. We can do the same. Whether it is attractions like the newly created Circle Route, or the preservation of old growth like Avatar Grove, and the as yet little known “Little Carmanah” nearby this project, responsible stewardship of the trail area will provide jobs in the future. And eco-sensitive projects like this which improve access and preserve 85 per cent of the trees forever are as “value-added” as it gets.

Finally, private landowners have a right to apply for re-zoning to approved uses, in this case Tourist Cabins. The Local Government Act designates the locally elected JDFEA Land Use Committee and then CRD Board Committee A to make the decision on this matter. This voting procedure recognizes that the decision rests with those most affected. It is, in fact, the law and any other process would be illegal. We all paid dearly through our taxes for the last futile attempt to circumvent the law by unsuccessful court challenges. Let’s not go down that dead end road again.

And those locally elected officials have the right to make their decision without the pressure of a hostile crowd and the thinly veiled threat of disruption.

On March 3 there will be a public meeting at Edward Milne School to decide the fate of this project. The same people who brought us the illegal down-zoning bylaws and bus loads of protesters from Victoria will be coming to oppose it. They want to force a full, urban core dominated CRD board vote.

The question is: are local area residents going to show up and stand up to say that it is we who will decide our future?

Or is it going to be mob rule?

Zac Doeding

East Sooke