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CRC Trust Society dissolves itself

The Cape Roger Curtis Trust Society has been on the Bowen preservationist landscape since 2002. For eight years the group was a mainstay in the debate about the future of the 631-acre Cape Roger Curtis lands on Bowen's western shore.

The Cape Roger Curtis Trust Society has been on the Bowen preservationist landscape since 2002. For eight years the group was a mainstay in the debate about the future of the 631-acre Cape Roger Curtis lands on Bowen's western shore.

But not any more.

When former approving officer Hendrik Slegtenhorst granted a development permit approval to the Cape on Bowen in late 2009, the debate largely passed into Bowen history. Now, the voice leading the movement to leave the land untouched is also gone. In the space of a few seconds at Collins Hall on May 21, the trust society's members voted to dissolve the organization.

While some people will continue to keep an eye on the ongoing development of the Cape, the trust society has little reason to continue to exist and will now be folded back into the Bowen Island Conservancy, a group that predates the society, with the society's $7,000 plus in funds to be put into Conservancy coffers.

Since the granting of the permit the society has been left to monitor work done by the Cape of Bowen to ensure that setbacks and other covenants are being followed and there is as little environmental damage as is possible.

Bill Granger, one of the last to serve on the society's board, said that the environmental firm that the Cape on Bowen hired, Potinger-Gaherty, is a reputable firm. Granger said the main issue is that there was a gap of a few months when no monitoring reports were on the municipal website. The society has questions about that period.

What turned out to be the society's final annual general meeting Saturday was facilitated by Peter Drake. Drake is the current chair of the Conservancy, of which most members of the now-former trust society are also members.

There were 27 people at the meeting, open to the public. All but a handful were trust society members and many, such as former chair Sue Ellen Fast and activist Marion Moore, who was born on Bowen and has walked Cape Roger Curtis for decades, were part of the group from its very beginnings.

The society was formed before the land was sold to present owners, when there was hope it might be saved for public use. An attempt was made to get funding to buy the land, or a portion of it, to turn into a park.

The new owners, Don Ho and Edwin Lee, say they spent money and effort on an offer that would have granted 53 per cent of the Cape as a park, as well as a housing community that would enhance Bowen. But while the trust society website says the society's goal was to "ensure that as much as possible of the Cape Roger Curtis lands remain in their natural state", the 600 units the owners proposed in their Neighbourhood Plan even with seniors and low-income housing was too much.

"Everyone was hoping that we could work with [the owners] but at the end of the day it turned out that we couldn't," Granger told the Undercurrent. "The density they wanted was just too much for everybody to understand fitting into Bowen Island."

Although the plan had support in the community, unlike with the current national park initiative, council did not offer to hold a vote on the Neighbourhood Plan. On April 20, 2009, council turned it down. Ho and Lee then did as they said they would by reverting back to the 59 10-acre lot subdivision plan. Slegtenhorst said that once owners met the required conditions, which they did, he had no choice but to grant the development approval.

"It was a real surprise when approval was given and council said they weren't consulted and then Hendrik left," Granger said. The final result contained little for the community and Granger calls it a "tragedy, an opportunity lost" and feels the owners were made to offer only "the bare minimum."

Granger, who has a Master's in environmental studies and works in that industry, said that for the last year, the trust society has been "puzzling over what to do." With all of that as a backdrop there was no mistaking the air of disappointment that pervaded Saturday's meeting, especially given the decision on what to do turned out to be one to dissolve the group.

Many feel all is not lost. Granger said it's too early to consider what may become of the Cape if a national park proceeds. The federal government has said there is no acquisition money for private lands but Stephen Foster told the meeting he believes there is still a chance for parts of the Cape to be added to a park, should one become a reality.

Meanwhile the development of the Cape continues.

Fast, now the chair of the Greenways Advisory Committee, reflected on the work of those who contributed to the movement. She "certainly felt some nostalgia at Saturday's meeting for all the wonderful people and the time and effort they put in."

"Many, many islanders have pitched in over the years in so many ways, from writing and singing to organizing and fund raising," Fast told the Undercurrent. "Some worked through the trust society, and others got busy and contributed alongside, including various other community groups.

"And, of course, the work goes on."