RDN Director, Area B
Gabriola, Mudge, Decourcy Islands
Happy October! I hope everyone had time to enjoy the beautiful weather over the weekend and maybe check out a place or two, or 10! on the art tour.
Winter is coming, along with the storms
If you haven’t already, please sign up for the RDN’s emergency alert system, Voyent Alert. In an emergency the RDN can send notifications via phone, email, or text https://www.rdn.bc.ca/voyent-alert
RDN WellSmart workshop on Gabriola – October 26 6-8 pm
During this free workshop, information will be provided about: drought management, water testing and treatment, maintenance and operations, protecting your water source, water treatment options, and upgrades and testing rebates. Although this is a free workshop you’re required to pre-register at rdn.bc.ca/wellsmart or call 250-248-3252.
Regional Parks and Trails (Coats Marsh Regional Park and Descanso Bay Regional Park)
The RDN has, in effect, multiple parks systems – community parks, which are parks that are acquired and managed through taxes paid for exclusively by the electoral area they are in (the majority of our parks in Area B), and regional parks which are acquired and managed through taxes paid for by all of the electoral areas and municipalities across the RDN. Each municipality also has their own separate parks acquired and managed by their respective municipalities. We have two regional parks in Area B: Coats Marsh Regional Park and Descanso Bay Regional Park. At a recent Regional Parks and Trails Select Committee we discussed the following:
• Coats Marsh Regional Park is an RDN regional park co-owned by The Nature Trust (TNT). As I’ve reported in the past, Coats Marsh has both a significant beaver dam formed by the actions of beavers over many years, as well as a concrete weir that was installed at the outlet to the marsh decades ago by the private landowner (before it became a park), to hold more water. Over the years the RDN has implemented various water control measures such as a pond leveler (a tube through the beaver dam that allows water to trickle slowly through the dam) to keep the water stored behind the beaver dam at the concrete weir height, as well as building a berm to prevent flooding of adjacent properties. The beavers continued to expand the beaver dam such that the water level behind the dam was more than 1 m higher than the weir. If the beaver dam was to breach, that significant built-up water would release resulting in a possible failure of the weir and impacts to downstream infrastructure and environment. A survey of the weir indicated it was developing some cracks and needed to be replaced. Temporary siphons were installed to reduce the water behind the beaver dam as an interim measure. As I reported in my May Sounder report, the Board reviewed options to address the issue and chose an option supported by The Nature Trust, which is to keep the beaver dam and to remove the concrete weir with the goal of having a more natural marsh management scenario. Because the placement of the concrete weir involved blasting the natural rock that would have normally maintained the water level, the management plan will also include placing rocks and vegetation to hold water in the marsh. Because the work involves removing a dam and working around water, the RDN requires permits from the BC Ministry of Forests and Environment and Climate Change Canada which were recently granted. Public engagement is a required component of this project – the RDN will be contacting residents adjacent to Coats Marsh RP, Coats Marsh Creek, and Hoggan Lake. In addition, there will be a public information meeting about the project which will be held on Gabriola at a date/location to be determined. I’ll update you as more information becomes available.
• The RDN has been working to improve the campground in Descanso Bay Regional Park over the last few years, including adding an accessible toilet at the day use area, a new change room and improved toilets at the upper campground, and the removal of the old campground building. A new prefabricated campground office building has been designed to re-use existing foundations and site services to minimize site disturbance. Installation of the building is expected to occur in fall 2023 or spring 2024.
• The Regional Parks committee also discussed an upcoming project to place a crossing (which will require 2 bridges) across the Nanaimo River to complete the Morden Colliery Regional Trail. Discussion was focussed on whether to support truss bridges (pros: would be accessible to users including bikers, mobility devices, and equestrians; cons: more expensive, not as attractive) or suspension bridges (pros: still allows crossing, can become a tourist destination, more attractive and less expensive; cons: mostly useful for pedestrians comfortable crossing a suspension bridge). Either option will require additional studies and planning because the river is actively changing the channel. The committee chose to recommend the truss model to the Board for consideration.
Health and Wellbeing Coordinator (potential new service in 2024)
Thanks to everyone who engaged with the Urban Matters consultants during our public in-person engagement sessions on Sept 16, 17, 18, 19 and/or our two online sessions on Sept 28th. Next steps will include a draft bylaw to come to the RDN Board for the creation of a service. If it is supported by the Board it will go to the Inspector of Municipalities for approval. Following that there will be an Alternative Approval Process (AAP) in early 2024 to determine whether Gabriolans are in support of the creation of this new service. As part of this process a Get Involved page will be created on the RDN website which will provide more information about the AAP process. To read more about this project including the initial feasibility study, see https://www.rdn.bc.ca/electoral-area-b
Area B Parks/Trails and Recreation Master Plan
The Master Plan process for Parks and Trails (on Gabriola, Mudge, and DeCourcy) and Recreation (Gabriola) is underway. This plan will set a path for us to follow over the next years to further improve parks and recreation in Area B. Thanks to everyone who provided input to the master plan through the survey which closed Sept 29th and/or attending the community open house on September 23rd. The consultants will be developing a report based on what they’ve heard. There will be an opportunity for the public to provide input on the draft Master Plan. Information about the planning process is available at https://www.getinvolved.rdn.ca/ea-b-rpmp. You can sign up for updates through the website.
Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention
In September I had the opportunity to attend the UBCM convention in Vancouver. The convention brings together elected representatives from across the province – both local governments and provincial Ministers and their staff. During the convention I had the opportunity to meet with numerous Ministers and staff on issues that are priorities in the RDN and in our area.
Part of the convention includes debate and a vote on endorsing various resolutions brought forward by local governments – either through their area association (ours is the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities, of which I’m the 2nd Vice President on the Executive) or directly to UBCM.
The RDN had six resolutions at the convention, all of which were supported by the members: 1) requesting the province consult local governments when developing and before implementing the Homes for People Action Plan, which proposes to upzone single residential parcels to permit four homes. While the goal is important, implementing this change without considering whether the conditions (e.g., water) or infrastructure (e.g., schools, wastewater) are able to handle such a rapid increase is problematic; 2) requesting the province provide leadership and facilitate the development of regional water supply strategies at the watershed scale (by regional district) to ensure proactive management to ensure sustainable drinking water is available; 3) requesting the province grant Regional Districts the ability to regulate and enforce vehicle parking on roads and rights-of-ways. Currently Regional Districts don’t have any authority over roads or parking; 4) requesting the province to address the current implementation of the $10/day childcare program which requires applicants to apply yearly and to plan and develop childcare expansion. Instead the request is for the province to provide multi-year funding to support expansion and also to proactively work to expand access without relying on individual providers to do so, and that the program should uphold UNDRIP obligations and offer opportunities for involvement of Indigenous governments and nonprofits; 5) requesting the province amend the Controlled Alien Species Regulation to prohibit all exotic non-domesticated cats and dogs from being owned and kept in BC. This issue originally arose from some serval cats that escaped from their pens in the RDN Area F in 2022, as well as issues with serval cats in Kamloops in 2019. The SPCA has been advocating for a ban and requested the support of the RDN on this issue; and 6) requesting the province increase the tax exemption for volunteer firefighters and search and rescue volunteers from the current $3,000 to $10,000. This was supported unanimously at UBCM. A similar resolution at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) calling on the federal government to also increase their tax exemption was supported unanimously by the FCM Board which will carry on advocacy with the federal government on this issue.
Upcoming (all meetings are livestreamed and the videos are available on the RDN website at https://www.rdn.bc.ca/agendas-minutes-videos)
Oct 16th: Area B Parks & Open Spaces Advisory Committee 5-7 pm at the Gabriola Agi Hall. The Public is welcome to attend. If you’re interested in submitting correspondence or appearing as a delegation to the committee, please get in touch asap
Oct 24th: RDN Board (1 pm start) at the RDN office in Nanaimo
Nov 7th: RDN Board (1 pm start) at the RDN office in Nanaimo
Nov. 9th: Electoral Area Services Committee (1 pm start) at the RDN office in Nanaimo.
If you have any thoughts or questions about this update or anything else RDN related, please contact me at email@example.com or 250-741-4589.