A artists’ rendering of the proposed “cannapark” for ACRD land. SUBMITTED PHOTO A artists’ rendering of the proposed “cannapark” for ACRD land. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Sproat Lake residents oppose cannapark proposal

Right idea, wrong place, residents tell Wild Coast Canna

Residents in the Sproat Lake area are not happy that a proposed cannabis university, or “cannapark” is being proposed for the region.

The management team from Wild Coast Canna held a public meeting in June in Port Alberni to divulge plans to build B.C.’s first ‘cannapark’, or purpose-built industrial park that would see property or space in a building leased to independent cannabis growers.

READ: Cannabis ‘campus’ planned for Alberni Valley

Co-founder Brian Harris said when complete, the cannapark would include a 200,000-square-foot or larger building and 40-50 acres of outdoor cultivation. A 40-acre industrial site in between Airport Road and Great Central Lake Road has been chosen.

Mike and Sheri Gerigk own property behind the proposed cannapark that has been in the family for 65 years. While they are presently located in Alberta, they are making plans to move full time to Sproat Lake. Both are concerned about environmental impacts of the proposed industrial park, and voiced those concerns via letter at a Sproat Lake Community Association meeting on July 18.

“The biggest and most detrimental effect on the community would be the ‘skunky’ cannabis smell and poor air quality the farm will emit,” Mike Gerigk said. He works two and a half kilometres away from an indoor cannabis plant in Edmonton and said even with “world class air purifying systems” he can still smell the distinctive aroma that cannabis or marijuana plants emit.

He is also worried about water in the area. “The second most devastating effect…would be the water supply,” he wrote. Gerigk worries that the aquifer in the area—already a concern to residents—could be depleted if the company chooses to use groundwater as a source.

One man stood up at a Sproat Lake Community Association meeting earlier this month and said he and his wife are new residents with young kids and are concerned about the proposal. “We just spent a year of our lives developing our property to live in and now it’s jeopardized,” the man said.

Wild Coast Canna’s property is only 500 metres from the upper Sproat Lake campground and at present there is no access to the property from Airport Road, the man added. “It doesn’t just end at 40 acres (of outdoor cultivation),” he said. “It’s scalable; there’s 170 acres in there.

“If this goes through, we’re selling. Who wants to raise kids next to (that)?”

He is also concerned at how much water such a facility could potentially draw from the aquifer.

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District director Penny Cote, whose area encompasses Sproat Lake, said Wild Coast Canna are in the study phase of their development. “They are doing studies so there is a study to look at water,” Cote said at the community meeting.

“They have consultants hired to look at that.”

Gerigk said he has nothing against the cannabis industry in general. “I believe the project has merit,” he said, “but it’s in a really bad spot.”

Cote said there isn’t much the ACRD can do, because the land is zoned appropriately for the proposed use of a cannapark.

Gerigk said a group of Sproat Lake residents is taking a multi-pronged approach to their opposition. They are hoping the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), BC Parks or Health Canada will help them, he said.

(This story has been edited to reflect the outdoor cultivation area would be 40 to 50 acres, not 450)

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A map shows the approximate location of Wild Coast Canna’s proposed cannapark and its proximity to home and Sproat Lake Provincial Park. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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