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Undercurrent Mailbox: March 9 Edition

Cape Roger Curtis' future continues to be the hot topic of conversation in our Inbox
Letter pen

Fighting against a park? Not exactly...

Dear Mayor & Council,

By this point a number of people have written to you with concerns about the park, most of which I share — there are over 40 letters that I could have happily co-signed. I won’t reiterate all the points here because, as you know, they are many.

It’s a weird situation to be in: “fighting against a park.” But what I want you to understand very clearly is that none of us are fighting against a park — we are fighting to preserve the viability of our community as a place to live, raise children and, for those who need to, commute to the city for work. We are fighting for both a natural ecosystem and a human one. 

This is an island, with only one way in and one way out, funnelled by the triple-bottleneck of Horseshoe Bay, the Ferry, and our small Cove. Everything that happens on this island affects us all, and we exist in extreme dependence on that little bottleneck. If it doesn’t function, we don’t function.

I have been reading, with interest, “Measuring and Managing Park Carrying Capacity,” the UBC Report prepared for Deanne Manzer of Metro Parks in August 2020. A number of people have quoted from it in reference to problems surrounding parks. But what I took from it was quite different. It is a guidance document; one that perhaps you have adopted in its recommendations for how to proceed in park development. 

And I noticed something very odd: it talks a lot about visitor experience and the three “core capacities” of Environmental, Social (visitor experience) and Managerial, with a nod to “Cultural capacity” which specifically references Indigenous peoples, but nowhere does it mention impact on the community of people who live in the area of a proposed park.

I urge you to take the many concerns you have heard very seriously and make them an integral part of your plan to save an ecosystem at the Cape, because while most of us are not Indigenous, we are part of that ecosystem. Under your current plan, our way of life, our livelihoods, and possibly even our lives are at stake.

Bowen Island’s ecosystem includes humans.


- Marian Bantjes

A friend reminds us – Democracy dies in silence

Dear Editor,

News delivered via a Freedom of Information request documents a year of facilitation by Council’s Metro Vancouver representatives in order to achieve a purchase of the Cape on Bowen for the purpose of a camping park. Whether we believe the park or the camping are a net benefit or a disaster, our modern  expectations of democracy involve citizen consultation as a constitutional right to Good Government. 

The ”cover” for undemocratic behavior has been justified by the private nature of a real estate agreement between Metro Vancouver and the Cape on Bowen. And therein lies evidence of an over politicized Metro governance model. As Canadians, we are more than familiar with the deceptive strategies that claim economic significance pre-empts substantial costs to ecosystems and communities.

The too familiar modus operandi is to get approvals as quickly as possible before the public has time to get organized. The implied assumption is that the project is too far along in the approval process for revision.

Now we confront the same dynamic on our tiny rock in the UNESCO Biosphere. Does Metro truly require these tactics just to develop a “recreational project?” It makes me wonder whether the proponents knew this was a bad plan for Bowen and applied the time tested strategy of pre-emption against us?

But why? That is an interesting question. Bowen residents are remarkable for their active participation in government at all levels. We take participatory democracy seriously and engage with intelligence and constructive energy through our letters, presentations to Council, and service on Advisory Committees.

Metro is now caught in a maelstrom of their own political making and it needs a clean-up.

- Betty Morton

Who are we prioritizing?

Dear Editor,

The concept of a new Metro Park on Bowen with a campground may sound like a great idea at first, but I think the reality will leave a lot to be desired, and once in place it will be impossible to remove.

For me, the idea of having 400 or so off-islanders coming from the ferry and making their way to the far side of the island all summer long seems a bit ridiculous considering the challenges we already experience with the flood of tourists. How do we stop them from bringing their cars? If they do come on foot, how will they get to the Cape and how will they be resupplied when they run out of beer and weed?

Firstly, our ferry is already overloaded and thin on the required staff to keep Boweners happy. Adding even more newbies to the terminal will make life miserable for us all. Priority loading for Islanders is a subject we should be thinking about now, even if camping is not allowed. That will require some rethinking by BC Ferries and I’m not confident in their ability to make that happen.  We can’t get them to change the tickets which tell all the newbies to line up for lane 69. How will they deal with priority loading?

Once the new visitors arrive, how will they journey to the Cape? On foot? Not likely. By bicycle? Can you imagine hundreds of bicycles making their way to the Cape and back? I have cycled Bowen for many years and it is quite dangerous as the roads are too narrow and car drivers either don’t see us or don’t know how to pass us safely. A dedicated, wide and paved bike lane would be the solution, but what would that cost? Many millions and I’m sure the residents of Whitesails will be thrilled. Shuttle bus? Give me a break!

400 campers represents a 10% increase in our population, so what about the other services that will be required? Policing, Ambulance, Fire, Search and Rescue. These services are already thin and we are entertaining thoughts of increasing their load with 400 party animals?

There are many more issues than these, and I think that preserving the Cape as park land is a great idea rather than homes for the very wealthy. The concept of a Campground has some huge challenges. A park, yes. Will that fulfill Metro Parks’ vision? Probably not, but then they don’t live here.

- Doug Nash

Re: Metro Vancouver Parks Proposal for Bowen Island and Rezoning Application

Dear Editor,

I sent this letter below to Council on March 3 and wish to send the same message to island residents. Please continue to engage with Metro Vancouver Parks (MVP) as you wish, filling out surveys, attending open houses etc. But it is not MVP that makes the final decision – it is the BIM Council who has to give approval to a park and camping at Cape Roger Curtis. So please let your Council know your views, not just Metro Vancouver Parks.

My message to Council: As a former BIM councillor and one who was very much involved with the failed National Park initiative for our island – I am asking you all to go slow and to communicate to Metro Vancouver that our island needs time to hear all the information and to consider all the effects on our island before making a quick decision.

Personally, I am in favour of protecting a major part of Cape Roger Curtis, but not in favour of giving Metro Vancouver Parks a green light without a lot more information. At this time, I think Metro Vancouver Parks needs to take a step back, a deep breath, and start to engage with the community in a meaningful way – which to me means being prepared to answer questions about ferry overloads, traffic on Bowen roads, traffic through Whitesails, passenger ferries, shuttle buses, environmental studies on the rare ecosystem at the Cape, and how welcoming the lower mainland public to this area will affect this ecosystem.

Please do not give first reading to a bylaw or OCP amendment. It is too soon. Consultation first on what MVP plans, with answers to questions noted above, and then, when this is complete, consider a zoning application and OCP amendment.

Thank you,

- Nerys Poole

Come, my friends

Dear Editor,

While reading the February 2 issue of the Undercurrent, I could not help but smile when I saw Ron Woodall”s inclusion of a powerful quote by the great Ralph Waldo Emerson in his cartoon. Where else but on Bowen Island would one see such a quote utilized by a cartoonist in a newspaper! 

Having been a property owner on the island since 1975, I am also fully aware that it is not an isolated example. Where else but on Bowen would we see a current mayor, such as Andrew Leonard, who finds inspiration in the equally profound thoughts of Herman Hesse and Carl Jung!

Or a former mayor and current environmental activist, such as Bob Turner, who finds kinship in the writings of Eckhart Tolle, the Vancouver author who is one of the foremost spiritual teachers on the planet! As Tolle indicates in his book “A New Earth”, the path to “building a better world” lies in a “transformation of human consciousness”, a transformation that is very much embodied not only in himself, but in all of these wise authors.

Having had the opportunity to provide my contribution in the creation of our original Official Community Plan and to work with others in the many campaigns throughout the years in support of our community plan, of the Islands Trust and its instrumental mandate in the creation of our OCP, and of the numerous political candidates who have steadfastly upheld our island way of life and the life blood of its participatory democracy, I can fully attest to the fact that this transformation of consciousness was already taking place and was being essentially reflected in all of those efforts within our community.

The most vital result was the creation of a community plan in the 1970s with principles and policies of environmental sustainability that were decades ahead of other North American communities.

And I have no doubt that Emerson himself would have applauded its integrity of purpose, as reflected in the last sentence of his quote in Woodall’s cartoon: “Do not allow yourself to be governed by customs or conventionalities or arbitrary man-made rules that are not founded on principle”. Emerson’s quote goes to the heart of our OCP, a document that was soundly forged on principle, above and beyond the customs and conventionalities of the day. 

The name “Bowen” means “son of Owen”, and the meaning of the name “Owen” is “noble”, “well born” and ”young warrior” - a fitting description of who we are as a community. Our noble community was truly well born, with the warrior spirit that is needed to always fight the good fight.

Sadly, in the troubled, perilous and dysfunctional world in which we live, one of those dysfunctions has been to succumb to cynicism and to give up. But, in my experience, that has never been the noble path of a true Bowen Islander. Beyond all of our human failings and the stumbles they may cause, we are indeed a nobly born community that belongs to the future through its vision of building that better world in the new earth that Eckhart Tolle foresees.

“Come, my friends, 

‘T is not too late to seek a newer world. 

Push off, and sitting well in order smite 

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds 

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths 

Of all the western stars, until I die”

(From the poem “Ulysses”, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

- John Sbragia