Behest of the West: Locals save Ukee Days

Big ups to Ucluelet’s council for having the guts to admit they were wrong.

Big ups to Ucluelet’s council for having the guts to admit they were wrong.

By calling off the moving trucks and keeping Ukee Days at Seaplane Base Field, council showed an ability to listen to the locals who elected them and the strength to own up to a mistake.

The announcement that Ukee Days would not in fact be leaving its longtime fairgrounds for the supposed greener pastures at Tugwell Fields was made in a surprisingly subdued manner at the tail end of last week’s regular council meeting.

Politicians traditionally push crowd- pleasing political decisions like this one into the spotlight but it was quietly introduced as a late-agenda item with Coun. Mayco Noel suggesting a walk around Tugwell last month made council realize holding the event there would be unfeasible.

“It spoke volumes walking around Tugwell Fields that the site requires too much work to accommodate Ukee Days,” Noel said.  No other councillor spoke to the issue at the meeting and the vote to suspend the move was unanimous.

When good news flows—and Ukee Days staying put is indeed good news—it’s best not to plug it up with minutiae, but if simply walking around the new site in December made it clear the move wouldn’t work then why was the move announced six months earlier?

Regardless, council should be commended for taking a step back and reassessing a poor decision in time to reverse course. Larger praise though is owed to the community members who stood up and spoke out, both formally and loudly.

Locals have clamoured against holding Ukee Days at Tugwell Fields ever since they learned about the move through a sign posted at last year’s festival.

Being told the decision had already been made, and being told this by an inanimate object, was a tough pill to swallow and with no concise reasoning in sight, frustration set in. The social media outcry was instant.

Thorough and well-thought-out discussions around a diverse variety of concerns quickly spread online but, more importantly, locals brought their voices to council meetings rather than assume their local government would read and be swayed by Facebook posts.

Applause isn’t often heard in council chambers but Bill Morrison drew a lot of it after a particularly passionate Oct. 13 presentation on why Ukee Days should stay put.

By making it clear the issue wouldn’t be quieted into obscurity, local voices like Morrison’s motivated council to reassess and, through this reassessment, new information was learned.

Council’s Tugwell walkabout was done to investigate the community’s concerns and thanks to this closer look the district learned of the underground sprinkler system’s potential kibosh-effect.

Had the community kept quiet and fallen in line, we may well have been headed for calamity as the event would have been planned for an area that couldn’t handle it.

Instead we find ourselves in an everybody-wins situation. Locals can celebrate their festival where they wanted to and council has a good news story to be celebrated for.

The way this all played out is an important reminder that while it’s council that pulls the trigger, it’s the public that calls the shots.

 

Andrew Bailey is the editor of the Westerly News. You can find his weekly column ‘Behest of the West’ on page 4 of our print edition every Wednesday.