Sometimes the best move is to stay put.
Ucluelet local Bill Morrison drew applause during Oct. 13’s council meeting after delivering a presentation urging council to reverse a controversial decision to move Ukee Days to Tugwell Fields next year.
Morrison said he and other locals were blindsided by a sign posted at this year’s event stating it would be the last to be held at the traditional Seaplane Base fairgrounds.
“I’m not a regular council meeting attendee however I like to think of myself as someone who tries to stay up to date and informed about what’s going on and it was the first I had heard of this,” he said.
“As I talked to other friends and neighbours I realized I wasn’t the only one that was completely out of the loop on this one.”
He said the surprising news was a hot topic over the Ukee Days weekend and cited a Westerly News article published after the event that quoted Coun. Marilyn McEwen suggesting she had heard only positive opinions from locals about the move.
“We must live in completely non-overlapping social circles,” he said to McEwen adding he has canvassed the community and found no one in favour of moving the event. “I’m getting up to a fairly decent sample size and I’m wondering why our perception can be that different.”
He asked council to present clear reasoning for moving the event and said the only reasons he had ascertained were that the district feels the Tugwell Fields are underutilized and that the larger venue would provide more room for growth, neither of which he felt were sufficient.
“If you insist on pursuing on the current tack, I do believe you have a duty to the electorate to give us a better rationale than I’ve heard to date,” he said.
He also cited several reasons for keeping the event at the Seaplane Base venue.
He noted the Ukee Days festivities bring a significant amount of noise, especially during musical performances and logger sports, and suggested moving the fairgrounds to the more residential area surrounding Tugwell would bring unwanted results.
“Both the fish plants and the hospitality industry are going full blast at that time and that means we have a lot of people on shift work and I think it’s quite reasonable to expect that some people are trying to get their sleep in the afternoon,” he said.
“I would suggest the probability of noise complaints will rise upon a move to Tugwell Fields.”
He also questioned how beer garden patrons would be handled in the more open venue without the bottleneck effect provided by the Seaplane location.
“Do we want them going down one well policed road as the way out, and then they meet the main road, or do we want them dispersing off in a number of different directions through residential neighborhoods,” he asked.
He added locals have memories of past Ukee Days weekends that are connected to the Seaplane location.
After Morrison’s presentation, Coun. Mayco Noel suggested the decision could be reversed and encouraged the locals in attendance to get involved in council’s ongoing budget discussions.
“Nothing’s in stone for us,” he said adding his fellow councillors have differing opinions on the topic.
“We’re not trying to wreck 44-year-old memories that some people have down there…there’s a budget component to it and being involved helps us out with our decision making.”
Mayor Dianne St. Jacques agreed and said the district is reexamining the decision.
“We’re doing more work on this. More investigation as far as costs (and) as far as opportunities,” she said.
“We don’t do anything like this lightly that’s for sure but, having said that, we do have a $1 million field up there (at Tugwell) and it seems like we could be doing some fun stuff there.
“We will be looking into it more and also reviving our recreation commission and getting input from the community that way…There’s certainly lots to consider.”
After the meeting, Morrison told the Westerly he was happy with council’s response.
“Coun. Noel is absolutely correct in saying people should become more involved,” Morrison said.
“(Noel) recommended people become involved in the budget process and there’s also been a call out for people to become involved with the recreation commission and I think those are both very noble avenues for change.”
Shortly after the council meeting wrapped up, a Facebook group was launched entitled ‘Save Ukee Days at Seaplane Base Road.’ The group had 132 members at press time.