Cowichan News Leader

Stoney Hill meeting hears calls for more parkland, cultural rights and road delays

At a packed public meeting at the Maple Bay fire hall Tuesday night, Larry McIntosh leads the charge to carve new parkland out of Stoney Hill. McIntosh wants the area’s rural character protected by the public acquiring land adjacent the new Sansum Point Park. - Peter W. Rusland
At a packed public meeting at the Maple Bay fire hall Tuesday night, Larry McIntosh leads the charge to carve new parkland out of Stoney Hill. McIntosh wants the area’s rural character protected by the public acquiring land adjacent the new Sansum Point Park.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Tuesday's packed town-hall meeting about a new Stoney Hill Road left many folks demanding more parkland purchasing — plus more time to complete the $2.5-million project properly.

The heated huddle saw resident Peter Gordon demand a one-year delay by North Cowichan councillors concerning the road across municipal forest to 73 Maple Bay Peninsula lots.

The stall could let councillors gain more input from citizens and Cowichan Tribes, about preserving the peninsula's rural character.

Mayor Jon Lefebure said council couldn't make a delay decision at a non-municipal meeting, such as Tuesday's hosted by the Maple Bay Community Association. Still, council is set to further discuss road bylaws at its Feb. 6 meeting.

Council's complex options span stopping the gravel road by defeating its various bylaws; proceeding by passing those bylaws, including pulling some public forestland for the road; or delaying decisions to gain more input. Council could also dedicate as park all or part of its 306-hectare peninsula municipal forest reserve.

Meanwhile, Tribes elders related worries the road will disturb some 70 archeological and cultural use sites. Staff met Tribes leaders last week about cultural concerns. Another meeting is slated for a peninsula tour, Lefebure said.

"If the road were to be constructed, there'd be a representative of the Tribes working with the construction process to identify any issues of concern along the route.

"Councillors must now consider if they want to delay, to allow more extensive talks (with Tribes), or if the process having a Tribes representative during building will be sufficient."

That may not satisfy Tim Kulchyski, grandson of Cowichan's late master-carver, Simon Charlie.

Flanked by elder Luschiim (Arvid Charlie), Kulchyski explained sewage in Cowichan Bay has fouled shellfish harvesting since 1972. He didn't want the same to happen around Stoney Hill, where there's just one isolated Aboriginal harvesting beach.

"My main concern is maintenance of the integrity of the area."

That's also Larry McIntosh's goal.

He's quietly working with Tribes, landowners, and investors to buy more peninsula land, then add it to the regional Sansum Point Park.

One person has promised $100,000 toward buying hill land owned by Paul Bourke, and others.

McIntosh also wanted North Cowichan to work with Cowichan Valley Regional District directors to tap about $730,000 in its parkland-acquisition kitty then buy Stoney Hill — which is on the CVRD's parkland wish list.

McIntosh's efforts to save Stoney Hill, and its stunning cliffs, were backed by rock-climber Trevor Prest, carbon-buster Peter Nix, and biologists Dave Polster and Irv Banman.

Polster cited what he believed is a rare flower found on the hill; Banman said species there are still being discovered.

So are public water-access points in the hill's Fairweather Road area, near where taxpayers own six lots.

Sale of two lots, plus unknown timber-sale values, is expected to cover North Cowichan's $500,000 portion of the $2.5-million road cost.

But administrator Dave Devana explained taxpayers will also shoulder $230,000 in land-easement bills across Bird's Eye Cove Farm, plus $164,000 as council's landlord portion of the $2 million. Road surveys could add another $50,000.

Council has promised no tax hikes from that $895,000-odd road bill.

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