Shawn Taylor wants the Cowichan Valley Regional District to immediately hold a special meeting to put a stop to the plans for Taylor Park, located near Shawnigan Lake.
He said he gave the approximately five-acre property just off Renfrew Road to the CVRD in 2004 as part of a rezoning application he had submitted to the district for his property, which was 22 acres in total.
Taylor said his parents, who were living in Victoria, wanted to build a home on his property, and handing over the five acres to the CVRD was a community amenity contribution that was part of the rezoning application.
He said he agreed to hand over the five acres to the district with the understanding that it would remain a natural park, which is called Taylor Park after him, due to the environmentally sensitive ecological wetlands in the area.
But the recent announcement by the CVRD that the district had received a $459,000 grant from the province to construct a new 100-vehicle parking lot on the site to increase public access to the historic Kinsol Trestle and Cowichan Valley Trail caught him off guard.
“I realize now that I should have put that it should stay parkland in a covenant at the time, so I guess it’s a learning experience for me,” he said.
“I envisioned some picnic tables and a play area in the central dry portion of the property, with the rest remaining a fish-bearing wetland. I think it’s really important that we keep land like this in its natural state or it will all be developed soon. I’m also surprised that the CVRD didn’t even bother to tell me their plans for the property. This parking lot project does not comply with the Shawnigan Lake Parks and Trails Master Plan and has been proposed without public input.”
Taylor suggested that other accessible parking options and access points, located both north and south of the Kinsol Trestle trail system, are a better alternative than destroying a sensitive ecological wetland to build a large parking lot.
Kris Schumacher, the CVRD’s manager of communications and engagement, acknowledged that the five acres was acquired by the district in 2004 as part of a rezoning application made by Taylor.
He said the CVRD was also agreeable at the time to the park being named Taylor Park at the request of the applicant.
Schumacher said it’s unfortunate that some references are being made that the parkland was donated, as this infers the property was otherwise separately gifted to the CVRD and not packaged up with the rezoning application.
“Community amenity contributions associated with property rezoning applications are not outright gifts, rather they are agreed-to contributions obtained by a local government if the local government decides to approve a rezoning bylaw for a property,” he said.
“In this particular situation, the property owner benefited from the larger parcel being rezoned to allow subdivision into three residential properties, and the CVRD and the broader community benefited with receiving a community amenity contribution of a park.”
But Taylor said the destruction of any park land to make a parking lot is irreversible and does not retain park space for future generations.
He also pointed out that there are signs from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the property stating that the streams running through it are important fish habitats, and the signs encouraging people to protect the resource underline his contention that the property is sensitive ecological wetland.
DFO said in an email that the signs are provided for educational purposes by DFO community advisors to community groups who place these signs near salmon-bearing streams.
“It’s important to note that anyone doing work around water should get in touch with DFO, and we can help determine whether or not their project requires a review,” DFO said.
As for the CVRD’s parking lot project, DFO said that as of this time, they have not received any requests related to it from the district.
“As with all projects near water, proponents are encouraged to first avoid impacts to fish and fish habitat through location selection, design and other mitigation measures early in the planning process,” DFO said.
“Where impacts cannot be avoided, or adequately mitigated, and the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat will occur, an authorization pursuant to the Fisheries Act is required.”
The CVRD will host a virtual community information session on March 2 at 6 p.m. to provide a detailed overview of its plans for the property, called the Kinsol Trestle Gateway Project, and answer questions from residents.
A press release from the CVRD said the project will address increasing demand for organized and safe access to the Kinsol Trestle, a major recreation tourism destination in the Cowichan region of Southern Vancouver Island.
The CVRD said the the project also supports local businesses and the recreation-tourism industry in Shawnigan Lake, bringing visitors to Shawnigan Village on their way to the parking area and trailhead
Once decommissioned, the existing 35-vehicle parking lot on Glen Eagles Road will be converted to a day-use area with interpretive features, complete with picnic tables, signage and naturalized landscaping.
Residents can join the virtual meeting at https://cowichanvalleyrd.webex.com/cowichanvalleyrd/onstage/g.php?MTID=e98c42ad86fc0b3709cce83a2f9313f04.
Residents can also call-in to the meeting by calling 1-844-992-4726 and using access code 2495 059 5567.