October 1, 2007—by Asha Rehnberg
I have attended a remarkable number of meetings about Cape Roger Curtis, the 631-acre “treasure of Bowen Island,” over the course of the last year—both as a concerned citizen and a board member of the Bowen Island Conservancy. I’ve been trying to keep abreast of the rapidly accelerating discussions, and lately things are moving pretty darned fast. But they are definitely moving in the right direction.
For those who may not have been able to catch all of the activity in the last few months, let me recap the highlights for you.
After a long period of impasse, there is definitely a new spirit of cooperation and trust-building between the landowners’ team and the community.
- The landowners have finally set aside their 10-acre lots subdivision proposal and entered into a volunteer comprehensive rezoning process.
- They have presented a broad-strokes preliminary plan for development at the Cape (see separate article Proposal Unveiled) which gives the community and the municipality something (albeit a little vague as to proposed density) to respond to.
- That proposal includes a commitment to creation of a large park as part of their development plan for the Cape.
- The municipality and the owners have jointly requested that the GVRD conduct a study of the Cape’s park values—a necessary first step toward potential GVRD involvement in management of a park at the Cape.
- The municipality is constructively engaging with the owners and the community in the rezoning process and has secured the services of an eminently qualified parks planner, Mel Turner (retired senior planner for BC Parks) to assist it.
- The Trust Society recently hosted a workshop with Mel Turner and Ian Atherton (latter is the Land Acquisitions Supervisor for BC Parks, Ministry of the Environment), to learn more about park creation.
- That workshop produced some remarkable ideas, including the possibility that the Crown land directly east of the Cape might be transferred to the Ministry of Environment and rolled into an expanded conservation plan that would protect most of the watershed that contains both Cape Roger Curtis and Fairy Fen. If that could be accomplished, Bowen could potentially have local, regional district and provincial support for a truly extraordinary conservation project at the Cape.
- The Trust Society has also recently hosted several meetings of an experts’ roundtable—Bowen residents with particular ecological or other expertise that may be able to help the community evaluate and respond to the owners’ proposals in a meaningful way.
- Finally, the Trust Society is now fairly certain that The Land Conservancy is willing to become involved. If the community wishes to negotiate and fundraise for a decreased development footprint and a larger, less fragmented park, TLC, and potentially other NGOs and agency stakeholders, may be able to join forces to help us create something truly extraordinary on Bowen.
In my observation, the Trust Society board’s goal remains protecting as much of the Cape as possible. However, they recognize that a conservation outcome will only occur if there’s a willing landowner. The rezoning process is a critical opportunity to engage in a respectful, productive dialog with the landowners, to build stakeholder partnerships that can make dreams a reality, and to enter into serious, timely discussions as a community concerning how we intend to respond to the owners’ proposals.