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ACRD land review puts animal shelter expansion in peril in Tofino-Ucluelet

CARE Network pursuing other options after plan to rehabilitate WWII building delayed
CARE’s beloved longtime spokes-dog Lily sits in front of a WWII building near Tofino that the network had hoped to transform into a valuable homebase and cat shelter. (CARE photo)

The Coastal Animal Rescue and Education Network is looking for other options after a plan to refurbish a former World War II building on regional district lands was kiboshed.

During their Nov. 17 regular meeting, the ACRD’s West Coast committee agreed to a thorough assessment of the lands around Long Beach Airport before agreeing to any development proposals, like CARE’s.

“It’s quite evident development is going to be an opportunity to make the airport more self-sustaining financially, hopefully, so easy win maybe, but to date we’ve really been struggling,” said ACRD general manager of community services Jenny Brunn, citing concerns around site servicing capacity and contamination.

“We have a lot of interest that is generated from non-profits, we’ve got BC Transit looking at this as an opportunity, we’ve got the West Coast Multiplex opportunity, things like campground development potentially if that is for West Coast housing and then also external interest.”

The committee agreed to support long-term development in the area and directed staff to report back on the financial impacts of assessing the site to be part of the 2022-2026 financial planning process.

“I believe it would be irresponsible for us to proceed in an ad hoc fashion such as we’ve been doing over the last number of years without a comprehensive plan to guide that decision making process,” said Tofino’s representative on the board Coun. Tom Stere.

That decision seems to have put an end to CARE’s pursuit of a WWII building the network had hoped to transform into a proposed second phase of its animal shelter.

“Our idea was that if we could get a hold of this building and get rid of the toxins, asbestos and whatever else, we could then start renovating it and that would be our more permanent base of operations and our primary housing for cats because we’re working with so many more cats year on year so having a facility designed for their care would be a huge asset,” James Rodgers told the Westerly News, adding CARE has been working on a plan for the building for roughly two years.

“We were thinking that we were starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.”

He said CARE had received a grant from Heritage BC to work on a Statement of Significance on the building and its historical importance as well as a conservation plan.

He said the building is in “quite a state of disrepair” and contains asbestos.

He added CARE reached out to the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, whose territory the building is in for permission before going to regional district staff who advised the network to submit a proposal to lease the building.

He said he was surprised to hear the board’s decision to conduct a comprehensive study on the area before moving ahead with any applications.

“It was a bit of a shock, seeing that we’d been given the nod to go ahead with this whole process. In my opinion it’s probably going to be another year or two at least before we can sort of revisit this idea,” he said. “I’m most concerned about the building just further decaying in our wet and increasingly windy climate out here…I really do consider it will be a loss and I think it’s inevitable the longer it’s left sitting there leaking and decaying, it will just increase as a liability as opposed to being able to be turned into an asset.”

He doubted the building will be salvable by the time the regional district’s study is over and CARE’s work is too busy to wait.

“We can’t sit on donations. We had local donations lined up to put a new roof on the building right away…We’re a non profit. We don’t have a bank account sitting there or a bunch of funds that can be put on hold for a ‘maybe, some time in the future.’ We can’t just sit on our hands. The situation with the animals is ever increasing.” he said, adding the process is time consuming on an already bustling volunteer team.

“We’re not developers, we’re not real estate people, we’re animal people and it’s a lot of work on the animal front and these kinds of distractions although necessary to sustain the work we’re doing, also need to be managed in relative terms to the important work of helping the animals and keeping our communities healthy and safe.”

He suggested CARE now plans to focus on its current animal facility and investigate other options for expansion.

“We’re very fortunate to be here and to be able to care for animals where we are…We’re certainly going to keep doing what we do and using the facility that we’ve established with all the great support we’ve received locally,” he said. “The work we do, although we’re always trying to work ourselves out of it, is an ongoing service and we need a base of operations and a safe place for the animals to temporarily house them as we figure out their next steps.”

Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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