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Bowen council backs Conservancy-Metro Vancouver park partnership

Bowen Island Conservancy has made a pair of park-related proposals to Metro Vancouver

Bowen Island’s council has expressed their support for a collaborative approach between the Bowen Island Conservancy and Metro Vancouver in the pursuit of a proposed park at Cape Roger Curtis.

Metro Vancouver’s current plan to build a regional park with 100 campsites on their 97-hectares of newly purchased space at the Cape has been met with local and regional opposition, including a Bowen-based No Camping petition with more than 1,650 signatures, and a recent decision from the Islands Trust Executive Committee that the proposal is contrary to 10 different parts of the Trust’s policy statement.

The Bowen Island Conservancy has also shared concerns over the plan, stating in a letter to Metro Van earlier this month that the group is “extremely concerned that the development of the Park, as currently proposed, will result in serious negative impacts to our Wild Coast Nature Refuge adjacent to the Park, and conservancy values in the area generally.”

The letter from Conservancy president Owen Plowman, dated Sept. 12 and made public last week, went on to detail a proposal by the group in May offering $20 million to Metro Van in exchange for a series of conditions on the park. These included a transfer of one of Metro’s lots bordering the Conservancy’s Wild Coast Nature Refuge (approx 4.3-hectares), several no-development or protective covenants aimed at conservation, and an agreement there would be no camping in the park.

The Conservancy described the deal as a “win-win for Metro and the Conservancy. This proposal is of clear benefit to the Conservancy, both enhancing and protecting the Wild Coast Nature Refuge, as well as enhancing conservation in the area generally.”

“The proposal is also of significant benefit to Metro Vancouver, obtaining $20 million, with little impact on the overall market value of the Park land, restrictions fully within the Metro Parks mandate to promote conservation, and greater consistency regarding Bowen Island community values,” continued Plowman.

The letter continued with another proposal, citing “Metro’s apparent lack of interest in our May proposal.” The Conservancy now says they have $30 million available to offer for the purchase of the entire space. They’re willing to pursue either the full sale option, or partnership approach, according to the letter.

At Monday’s council meeting there was a wide consensus among councillors, who signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Conservancy earlier this month, in support of the collaborative approach. “I really like their (Conservancy) proposal to Metro Van to share the responsibilities for the park,” said Coun. Judith Gedye.

“I find that the strength of Metro is in the ecologists who have gone out there and have been doing an inventory (of species)… If we can partner with them that would be, from my perspective, ideal in terms of what this community wants and can handle. I hope they (Metro Van) take this seriously and consider it,” she added.

“I definitely think there’s a really unique opportunity here to create something that can address a lot of the concerns. I would encourage Metro Van to pursue that further,” said Coun. Alex Jurgensen, with Coun. Tim Wake adding he agreed with both of his colleagues.

Support continued around the table, Coun. John Saunders saying “This just seems like a win-win given the divisiveness of this issue and the serious concerns everyone has, and frankly the way they really haven’t been addressed yet,” while Coun. Sue Ellen Fast said many of the goals in Bowen’s Official Community Plan “are all things I think that I’ve seen as being challenged by the current application (by Metro Van) that’s in front of us.”

Mayor Andrew Leonard said it was apparent there was council support for the partnership. He also said he’d be searching for some clarity on how exactly the discussions between the Conservancy and Metro Van have progressed.

“What I am not clear on – and I will certainly be asking my Metro Van staff and colleagues – is how did a conversation about $20 million of community-based funding that could have been used to mitigate the impacts of this development proposal, how did that community funding get turned into a conversation about a sale of the land? Because that certainly did not have Metro Van board approval, nor did it have input from the Regional Parks Committee,” said the mayor.

The next Metro Vancouver Regional Parks Committee meeting is Wednesday, Oct. 4. There’s also a Metro Van board meeting this Friday, Sept. 29.