Revisiting the post below from 16 months ago to update it with links to the draft Parks & Trails Masterplan (PTMP) and its companion Transportation Masterplan (TMP). You'll find both here. An informative Zoom Open House on the plans with a small but engaged turnout was hosted by the District last week. Further public input is welcome until July 31 via email to firstname.lastname@example.org if dealing with the PTMP and/or email@example.com for the TMP. (Please feel free to cc us on council if you like at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Once finalized in the fall, the plans will join the recent Housing and Childcare needs assessments, the Sooke Economic Analysis, the Lot A report and various other keystone documents -- the current Official Community Plan, the Agriculture Plan, the Town Centre Plan, the Sooke Region Cultural Plan, the Liquid Waste Management Plan and the Community and Energy Emissions Plan included -- in providing the backbone and points of reference for the creation of Sooke's next Official Community Plan. Jennifer Fix and her DIALOG consulting team, the District's planning staff and the OCP Steering Committee intend to get cracking on it in the fall. (Reminder that the application deadline for the Steering Committee is this Friday, July 17.)
As I said on my Facebook page prior to the June 22 COW meeting at which council received the draft plans, I rate both as excellent contemporary best-practice documents grounded in fiscal realities along with much strategic promise and potential. Both feature a full menu of short and medium-term actions along with some visionary, "aspirational" long-range thinking. District staff working with this and future councils will tackle these objectives through their inclusion in annual capital spending plans, through grant applications, in negotiation with developers, and/or by advocating with other levels of government.
Both plans are critical, in other words, as we patiently inch toward #Sooke's OCP-certified desire to be a compact and complete community. (Let's not forget: All bets are hedged over the next 18 months as BC activates the Restart Plan. The municipality will be banking just a fraction of the $260k we received from BC casino funds last year, for instance, and that will hurt. Casino income this year is earmarked for Murray Rd. drainage improvements, Kaltasin water access, the DeMamiel Bridge crossing and the PTMP itself.)
Cherrypicking among the 56 action items listed in the Transportation Masterplan
* Update Subdivision and Development Standards Bylaw #404 to reflect the plan's focus on "complete streets" (i.e., multi-purpose roadways catering to all user types -- pedestrians, bikes and mobility scooters included.)
* Greenlight, with new purpose and intent, action on the Grant/Waddams/Throup/Phillips Road bypass connector (as per start/stop plans dating back as far as 2004);
* Improve pedestrian connectivity at Rhodenite/Arranwood, Charters, Phillips and Beaton/Pyrite (these priorities based on their current status as established routes to schools, streets with public transit and existing sidewalks, and connectivity to parks, trails and recreation facilities).
* Short-term focus on street improvements in three locations: Otter Pt. Rd. between Sooke Rd. and Wadams Way (the design blueprint for which is about to be awarded); Throup Road between Church and Charters; and the roundabout-ready intersection of Church and Throup;
* Work with the Ministry of Transportation to improve the Hwy #14 intersections at Phillips, Charters, Church, Otter Point Rd. and Grant Rd. West while also adding crosswalks at key junctures elsewhere along Sooke Rd/West Coast Rd. (such as the one just announced from Gatewood across West Coast Rd. to Ed Macgregor Park as part of sidewalk improvements from Otter Point Rd. to the park);
* Plan for a grid street network in the town centre and better through-street connectivity elsewhere (likely result: goodbye to the bollards on Brailsford and the opening up of French Rd. at Beaton);
* Develop a neighbourhood traffic management policy for speed enforcement + get a grip on effective off-street parking requirements via the new zoning bylaws that will emerge from the OCP;
* Encourage EV uptake, ridesharing, charging facilities and carshare opportunities through incentivization of various kinds;
* Establish reserve funds for future sidewalk construction, bus shelters and active transportation initiatives;
Short-term (within five years, ideally) highlights of the Parks and Trails Masterplan (pp. 67-74) include:
* Park masterplans with full public input for John Phillips Memorial Park, Whiffin Spit and a TBD new town centre park;
* New trails, or extensions of existing ones, over the next five years at Nott Brook, Water Street, the DeMamiel Creek Crossing, and the Sunriver Nature Trail;
* Trail and trailhead improvements throughout the District as opportunities arise in the wake of the first phase of trail wayfinding initiatives now being implemented)
* More play areas, including a spray park at SEAPARC and playgrounds at JPMP, Ed Macgregor, Erinan Estates and in Saseenos;
* Establishment of off-leash dog areas as part of a new dog management poiicy;
* A million-dollar multi-sports court in Sunriver (funding for which was recently confirmed through the federal and provincial Investing in Canada Infrastructure program; the first planning meeting on how to construct this facility adjacent to the future (within three years, dear SD #62?) Sunriver Elementary School on Phillips Rd. is set for next week);
* Improved waterfront access for starters at the foot of Kaltasin and Murray roads, at Cooper's Cove and Whiffin Spit's Bluff Park;
* Preparation of an urban forest strategy arising from the District's forthcoming tree bylaw.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
One among other advantages of a single consultancy team (Urban Systems) executing both plans: The TMP's "complete streets" approach ensures that our roadways will serve drivers as well as all those using Sooke's evolving active transportation network as they funnel in from current, future and aspirational connecting trails identified in the PTMP.
Okay, all this said, the plans aren't finished quite yet and tweaks will be done over the next few months based on feedback. I attended last week's Zoom Open House and heard the views/opinions of some of the 25 or so residents (many of whom were content to listen and learn) who turned out for what we can all agree is a far from perfect yet only safe and manageable COVID-era means of fielding real-time public input.
Some of the observations I jotted down:
- The plans are "too parochial and lack courage" in not taking strong measures to address the climate emergency and inspire transportation mode shift that reduce GHG emissions. (I disagree, and that's fine :-) )
- Appendices need be added to capture the public input from the opening stages of plan development;
- It would be useful to add a chart of the real-world costs per unit measurement for key types of infrastructure: roads, raised sidewalks, pedestrian-controlled crosswalks, bus shelters, etc. This to help with future budget planning and to prove conclusively that we simply can't have it all given fiscal realities and an 85% residential tax base.
- One participant, wishing I suppose upon a passing comet, asked that complete-street improvements of Sooke Road, Grant and Otter Point -- raised sidewalks, bike lanes -- be prioritized within two to three years. (Oh, if it could be so ...)
I also trust that the revised plans will reflect points I raised at the Community of the Whole meeting last month and in a subsequent email to staff:
1. Need for discussion of a second traffic bridge crossing of the Sooke River.
2. Further details on why a four-lane highway straight through to Sooke has been judged by MOTI to be hugely, perhaps impossibly challenging due to ocost ($20 to $50 million per km.), topography, the need for multiple new bridges and impacts on the Sooke Hills ecosystem. (More here along with ample footnotes for further reference).
3. Reference to MOTI's Malahat study from December, 2019 that ruled out potential alternate routes on forestry roads.
4. More exact costing of action items in the PTMP (as has been done with the main recommendations in the TMP.)
What else might be said? LOTS, I'm positive, and we all want to hear from you. Please read the documents, recognize their place within the bigger picture of other critical planning documents, jot down your impressions and send to the District by month's end. Much appreciated!
Original Post: Jan. 30, 2019
Quickly jotting down my hopes as we move in earnest into the Parks & Trail and Transportation Masterplan public process hosted by the consultancy firm Urban Systems this afternoon at EMCS (4 to 8 p.m.) and Sunday at SEAPARC (2 to 6 pm).
Those hopes are fourfold as I think of them now ...
1. Updated, line-edited, creatively retweaked versions of the current plans that reflect the full range of needs, wants and bright ideas of citizens, council, District staff and our top-drawer consultants.
2. A set of practical short, medium and long-term action points, each costed out in 2019 dollars and ranked by priority so that we have consensus and direction to slide them into future five-year financial plans and tackle each in turn as dollars and opportunities arise.
3. Funding strategies and reality checks to manage expectations (the current PTMP does this nicely; the Transportation plan, on the other hand, had an overly ambitious timetable for what it predicated would be an extensive set of roundabouts, stop lights, crosswalks and one east-west connector in place by now. This said, it is a fine, substantial document with much to recommend it.)
4. Affirmation that the District has and continues to move forward strategically at a realistic, best-possible pace with its various parks, trails and transportation initiatives.
[Re: point #4 ... Our transportation priorities as outlined in the 2018 Five-Year Plan are the five-year secondary road improvement program; new sidewalks (Otter Point Road to the Hope Centre ... then the long-awaited West Coast Rd. stretch from Maple to Brooks Rd. on the north side as a solution to boat-trailer congestion across the street); a $700k makeover of Charters Road (currently budgeted for this year); a rainwater infrastructure program; and modest expenditures on streetlights and transit stop enhancements.
As for Parks, the team led by Laura Hooper and Jessica Boquist are focused on a number of fronts, including a wayfinding trail signage and trailhead program in collaboration with the JDF Community Trails Society. In the works this year, budget willing, are the creation of kayak access spots at Prospect Point and the end of Kaltasin Road; construction of a retaining wall at Ed Macgregor Park; and a replacement for the aging untreated-wood staircase in our (the Batemans) favourite, still surprisingly secret, local beauty spot -- the pocket park at the end of Austin's Place with its sweeping ocean views (proving the world is indeed round) just 10 minutes walk from where I sit here in Whiffin Spit.
On the order-and-install list is a vault toilet at the northwestern edge of John Phillips Memorial Park (near the Municipal Hall). The parks department has some equipment to purchase in keeping Sooke's green spaces trimmed, clipped and collected. Looking ahead, the 2020 Capital Plan pencils in money for a dog park/run and a replacement of the vault toilet at the end of the Spit. The big spend ($150k) currently planned for 2021 is a new splash park at the Broomhill playground. (All of the above is subject to change based on priorities in the new Parks Plan.)
Beyond these four points, I intend to enjoy creative, collaborative engagement with a hopefully sizeable number of informed locals as we dream large while also keeping feet, tires and wheels rooted in the realities of terra firma.
Is it time for a second Sooke River crossing? More parks or raw land acquisitions? Should we be making and doing more with what we've already got? Encouraging transportation mode shift? Improved street cycling infrastructure? Development of more beach combing, sea-level waterfront access? Wayfinding signage and maps for residents and a new wave of tourists who visit, stay and play here in town? If money were no object, and of course it is, all of the above, natch. Whatever the case, may it all resonate with the established principles of #SookeSmartGrowth.
It's been fun already tinkering with the consultant's survey apps for each plan ~ you'll find them here (Parks) and here (Transportation). Feel free to submit a second survey if you get fresh brainstorms about items or locations you overlooked at the first attempt. I've particularly enjoyed the Map It! app, which allows one to zoom in on a particular Sooke street or neighbourhood to indicate exactly where you'd like to see a trail, green space, playground, crosswalk, through road, sidewalk or amenity.
I didn't save my input for the transportation survey, but for whatever it's worth, at the end of this page you'll find the unedited stream of views and opinions that I pumped into the parks survey last night. Much is based on what I've read over the years in the current plan but it also reflects the grounded, far-seeing perspectives I absorbed on a recent daytrip in the SEAPARC bus visiting Sooke's natural assets with (speaking of which) our hosts, the estimable Ms. Hooper and Ms. Boquist along with their department colleagues and our afternoon driver, SEAPARC's Steve Knocke.
District of Sooke pages
~ Parks & Trails Masterplan
~ Parks & Trails
~ Parks & Greenspaces
~ Dogs in Parks
~ Urban Forest
~ Parks & Trails Advisory Committee (RIP for now)
* Map My Ride ~ local cycling routes
* Galloping Goose/Sooke River Road connector (2015)
* Harbourview mountain biking trail network
* Walks In the Juan de Fuca & Sooke Area (compiled by Rosemary Jorna for The Rural Observer)
* Map My Walk guide to Sooke walking routes
* Hiking Trails ~ Sooke Region Tourism Association
* JDF Park Watch
~ Galloping Goose Trail
~ Sooke Potholes Regional Park (CRD) + BC Parks guide + Victoria Trails guide
~ Ayum Creek Reserve + Land Conservancy page
~ Millennium Park
~ Viewpointe Estates
~ William Simmons Park Otter Point
~ Seagirt Ponds Community Park East Sooke
~ Devonian Park
~ Matheson Lake
~ Roche Cove
~ East Sooke Regional Park
~ Priest Cabin Community Park French Beach
~ Sandcut/Jordan River
~ Whiffin Spit to East Sooke Park
~ Dog Park Public Hearing, Feb. 2015 submissions
~ Off-leash on the Goose? (Times Colonist article, fall 2018)
~ Citizen Canine's guide to off-leash in Greater Victoria
~ "Off-leash dog options are shrinking" ~ PocketNews, July 2018
~ City of Victoria's "Paws In Park" page
~ Guide to dog parks in BC
~ CRD "Poop and Scoop" enforcement
~ Whiffin Spit history (Elida Peers)