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Cash there, common vision needed

Kate Evans (left) of HB Lanarc goes over the draft of the Chemainus Revitalization Plan with residents Kate Marsh and Sarah Mais Sept. 22 at an open house meeting held at the Chemainus Legion Hall. - Niomi Pearson
Kate Evans (left) of HB Lanarc goes over the draft of the Chemainus Revitalization Plan with residents Kate Marsh and Sarah Mais Sept. 22 at an open house meeting held at the Chemainus Legion Hall.
— image credit: Niomi Pearson

If there was one message to be had at Thursday evening’s town revitalization meeting in Chemainus, it’s that residents need to come together and decide on a concrete vision for their community before breaking any ground.

It was standing-room only for scores of residents who came out to the Legion Hall to get a first look at the draft revitalization plan for Chemainus town centre, which includes key projects such as a skate park, community centre, a library and a boardwalk network starting at the foot of Oak Street.

“What we’re trying to do is get to the point where we are in agreement, and then the municipality can come and make strategic investments in infrastructure,” said Dave Devana, CAO of the Municipality of North Cowichan.

“Until we feel that Chemainus wants these things and where they want them, it’s hard for us as a municipality to make the investment, and it’s not wise to make piecemeal investments in little things without an overall vision.”

“The money is there for the skate park, and trail development and community centre and library and all these things, we just need to know where they gotta go.”

The revitalization plan is the document which will guide that overall vision, and has been compiled by the Chemainus Advisory Committee and staff at HB Lanarc, the consulting firm overseeing the process, based on feedback recieved from residents at an open house held in June.

During Thursday’s meeting, Doug Backhouse, of HB Lanarc, presented the draft plan via powerpoint presentation. Attendees were asked to consider things like whether they would like to see a two way road along Willow Street, if they would like to see a pedestrian right of way zone implemented, and where they would like to see key infrastructure placed.

“There’s a whole bunch of ideas now that weren’t there the last time around,” Backhouse said.

The plan offers four potential locations for the much-anticipated skate park; the old elementary school, the high school sport court, Croft street, and Elm Street Fields. Potential locations cited for a community centre include the old fire  hall and St. Joseph’s school.

The meeting was attended by residents of all ages, with a good representation of local youth as well. Ian Marsh said he liked the idea of creating a local hub at the old Chemainus Elementary site, where all of the elements, including a skate park, library and community centre, could have a home.

Philip Mix commented that he would like to see Chemainus linked together with elegant street design and favoured the plan’s suggestion of a treed median along Chemainus Road.

“Many things are changing in the world, but one thing that doesn’t change is that people like to go to a place that looks beautiful, and they like to be in a place where they feel welcome,” he said.

“I would really like to see how the benchlands could start to be an extension of the centre... and a continuation of Willow Street being a pedestrian-friendly place along that way. Everything changes when you start to make things pedestrian friendly but still accessible.”

Resident Allen Shernus said he would like to see the municipality start to get the ball rolling.

“It seems to me if you wait for unanimity, nothing’s ever going to happen,” he said. “Maybe what we need is some strong political leadership that will take a plan such as this, take the community input, realize that there’s going to be dissenting voices out there, but move forward with something that has the total community interest in mind.”

The draft plan and feedback form is accessible at www.ourchemainus.ca.

Residents are encouraged to view the plan and fill out a feedback form and return it to the Municipality of North Cowichan office, or the Chemainus Chamber of Commerce, by Sept. 30.

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