A Ucluelet local continues to clamour against a path plan that would provide locals and visitors access to Spring Cove.
The path is part of a larger project designed to link the Wild Pacific Trail from He-Tin-Kis Park to Big Beach.
During the public input portion of Feb 28’s regular council meeting, Laurie Skene urged her local government to abide by Ucluelet’s Official Community Plan, which identifies Spring Cove as a riparian area worthy of protection, by completing an environmental assessment on the path’s potential impacts.
Along with her environmental concerns, Skene is questioning the district’s claim to the right of way the Spring Cove path would be built on and has filed a legal action to challenge it.
“Just for the information of council, I understand from my lawyer that we have a court date of May 8 for the hearing of the right of way issue so that should be resolved relatively soon, hopefully,” she said.
A 1998 covenant attached to a subdivision at Reef Point called for the developer to install a path through the area prior to any development taking place.
“It was supposed to have been done by the developer, not by the district and not by taxpayers,” Skene said.
Coun. Randy Oliwa said council is looking into its Official Community Plan.
“We are reviewing sections of the OCP and educating ourselves on the OCP at this moment. We do have some new members of council on here the last couple of years, so it is up to us to do our best job to understand it. We have asked for legal interpretations on sections of the OCP, but we’re waiting for that to come back,” he said.
Skene suggested no work should start while those interpretations are pending and her suggestion was met with nods from councillors, but no verbal commitment.
It was the second consecutive meeting that Skene has raised the issue, as she had presented as a delegation to council on Feb. 14 urging for the OCP to be adhered to.
“The requirements regarding development in this area are very clearly outlined with the intention of protecting this pristine area from any form of development that could cause potential damage to the environment,” she said.
“There seems to be a real desire to plunge headlong into this without taking those things into consideration…All of this is a direct violation of this important Ucluelet bylaw.”
She asked if the district knew what species live in and around Spring Cove and how the proposed trail would impact habitats.
“Anyone viewing the area can see that it’s a literal nursery for all sorts of marine and aquatic lifeforms,” she said. “Can anyone give the assurance that building a trail and boardwalk potentially used by hundreds, if not thousands, of people would have no negative impact on Spring Cove?”
Coun. Randy Oliwa responded that the OCP is currently under review.
“We’re currently doing an OCP review and council’s working hard to educate itself on the existing document and what will transpire after the current review that’s underway,” he said.
Skene said the current OCP remains in place regardless of the ongoing review and suggested council should at least wait until the legal action has been resolved before moving ahead.
“Should the district not be successful in retaining that right of way, then any work would be a waste of taxpayer money to begin with and, in our assessment, we probably have at least a 50/50 chance that that will not hold up,” she said.
“That aside, even should the right of way stand, the OCP makes it very, very clear that there should be an environmental assessment done before anything happens in that area: before a single tree is cut down, before any deadfall is removed, before anything happens at all. So, to see the intention of work proceeding without that happening is very disturbing because you can’t put it back. You can’t fix it. Once an old tree is cut down, you can’t replace it.”
She added area residents were not given sufficient notice about the project.
Coun. Sally Mole suggested Spring Cove has long been slated for a path.
“My understanding, and just as a rookie councillor person, is that there was always a path plan for Spring Cove,” she said. “Whether the property owners were aware or not, in my view as a councillor, there was always going to be a trail through Spring Cove.”