i) Pump track at SEAPARC rather than the full-blown, family friendly bike skills park originally proposed for John Phillips Memorial. Well, a major public process unfolded, a huge amount of effort and passion was expended on the debate, council voted to rescind its initial okay for the proposal, and now our recreation centre has a cool new attraction for young and young-at-heart bikers. So that's an upside and, as previously stated, I'm all about the sunnyside up.
To me, the problem with the various proposals for JPMP – horseshoe pitch, off-leash dog area, bike skills park – is that they've been handled piecemeal. I’m curious as to why all potential user groups haven't been invited to step forward as part of a public process that would revisit the 2006 park master plan (assembled through much community input and careful consideration, then promptly shelved) ... and then figure out how the various puzzle pieces (including the Rotary Club’s wonderful idea of a loop trail around the perimeter) might fit together. It would also be a chance to come to grips all at once with the topographical and drainage issues affecting the park as a whole, finally erect signage, explore parking options and more.
ii) Tom's point about additional blind spots at Wadams Way as it leads into our own humpback road (Otter Pt.) is a valid one and reason for even more cautious driving in that area. Yet despite its flaws, the new route significantly improves our still limited options in navigating about town. Traffic in the core will be eased, and families along Rhodenite must be delighted that they’re no longer fronting on a throughway. That said, traffic calming strategies are needed along Wadams Way (i.e., perhaps a speed warning device to slow lead-footed drivers as they approach the Townsend Rd. crosswalk near CASA) and a couple of speed humps (not bumps) on Townsend and Anna Maria roads.
iii) Tom’s two ‘neutral’ observations about the town core: The roundabout accessing Evergreen Mall is slated to begin construction next spring (according to the latest Corporate Strategic Plan, an informative read for any voter seeking to understand longer-term planning). And, if the plan is on schedule as it was with Wadams Way, then work on sidewalk improvements on both sides of Sooke Rd. from Church to Otter Point Rd. will be underway any day now.
As for the aesthetic issues, well, there is that old metaphor about lipstick and livestock to consider. For my part, I extend full credit to the Mayor's Advisory Panel on Arts & Beautification, the Chamber of Commerce and other local folks for their efforts to mitigate our downtown’s visual sins as best they can with limited funds and volunteer heart & muscle. Not for nothing do we repeatedly win Communities In Bloom awards, right Brenda Parkinson?!
Regarding the town centre issue in general, the fact (as stated by many observers time and again) is that we developed as a sprawl town and it’s going to take much patience and steady, consistent effort over an extended period of time to enact related community plans and guideline documents. Boulevard’s 2006 Town Centre report nails the problem then, now and for the foreseeable future: “Sooke’s commercial centre has developed from a cluster of small businesses along the Highway 14 corridor into a sprawling auto-oriented series of shopping plazas and mini-malls. The town centre has taken on a strip character with a disorganized appearance and poor pedestrian amenities. Most importantly, this haphazard pattern of development does not provide a social focal point for the community.”
Upside: The go-forward plans have all been written via long weeks and months of input by staff, the public and third-party consultants. Now it’s a matter of slowly wooing built-green developers, attracting business, and honouring the OCP’s mixed-use commercial & residential vision for a moderately dense core built on Smart Growth BC principles. Bottom line: It's still early days in the process of revealing our town's best harbourside face and creating a live/work/play community on the doorstep of one of the most picturesque harbours and postcard vistas in the world (Yes, i'm talking proud here).
On my to-do list in the days ahead: An armchair observer’s take on Tom’s list of where this council went wrong. Now it's time for leftovers and another big chuck of the apple/rhubarb crisp made by the Volunteer Centre's cooks that we scored at Sunriver’s Applefest the other week. Gratitude and thanks fully and formally given for this fortunate birth and the opportunity to live here on an Island that the province's first governor, James Douglas, described as "a perfect Eden" back in the 1840s. Ain't it the truth! :-)