Tuesday Jul 11, 2023

Judith Gedye

Councillor, Island Trustee Bowen Island Municipality

Preserve and Protect while Preparing for the Future

Scribe: Robert J Ballantyne

Judith Gedye talks to the Rotary Club of Bowen Island

Judith Gedye talks to Bowen Rotary

Judi Gedye [JG] pulled up a chair and sat down to talk to Rotary as if we were all sitting in her living room.

When thinking about what to talk about, Judi  commented that because she is newly elected to the Islands Trust and to Bowen Island’s Municipal Council, the mandate of the Trust is to preserve and protect. What follows are some points that Judi made during her presentation.

  • JG is now the chair of the Governance Committee of the Islands Trust.
  • There has always been a move by some to disband the Trust, since it’s inception and before.
  • JG is a believer in the Trust. We are still green because we have the mandate of the Trust: green & protect the environment
  • The Trust wants to keep the demographic of the islands – diversity of income and age. Land-use planning issues. Young people are leaving the islands.
  • A problem: the lower mainland is one of the most expensive places in the world, and it is a problem if the islands become more expensive than the mainland.
  • The Trust is talking about housing, how to increase the density and maintain the green spaces. Cluster housing and protecting green spaces around it.
  • JG recalled Cape Roger Curtis from before the Ho family bought it. JG has a hard time going back since it has been logged. JG talked about the concept of cluster housing instead of 10 acre lots. How to make that easier to happen.
  • there are more effective ways of negotiating, of appeasing developers, so that they don’t just go off in a huff and do it their way.
  • huge hotels and high density isn’t the primary goal. It has to be balanced with protecting the environment.
  • JG is now chair of the governance committee. She has to read all of the legal opinions. And says that she likes it.
  • Section 3 of the Islands Trust Act is the legislated mandate of the Islands Trust and it says: #1 preserve and protect the Trust area, and #2 its unique amenities and #3 environment. Those 3 things are the main focus of the Trust.
  • It (the Trust) is for the benefit of the residents and BC generally — in cooperation with municipal governments, regional districts, improvement districts, first nations, and the government of BC.
  • The conservancy is most popular. They are in the business of obtaining land donations or raising money to buy and protect land. Like the B.I. Conservancy, they want land that is pristine. The problem with Cape R. C. is that it has been logged, blasted, gravel put down for building sites. The B.I.C. consider it to be too damaged to be ‘re-wilded.’ They might be interested in trying to protect what is left. There is some wild areas in there. JG is working towards, “how do we keep it green as possible?”
  • Most people agree that there are significant changes in the climate. Warmer. Drier. Hotter summers and colder more severe winters. To keep our little oasis, we have to think about what we do about taking down forest cover. This is about land use management and development. We don’t have to stop development, but instead just slow down. We have to be careful about where this will end up. How can we each be responsible for it.
  • I’m 6 months into this term, and I feel that I’ve trained for this for 52 years, so I can read this stuff — and enjoy reading it and work with people.
  • I’m finding it enjoyable: helping people to figure out how to present their ideas and their arguments, and get their point across without making the people listening become defensive. I think everybody has something interesting to say.
  • We have the opportunity, in this community, to do things together — and find solutions. And figure out ways of talking (to each other).
  • I’m doing an open house, once a month. I am concerned that I’m getting the same people all the time. It is really hard to get the young families. They’re commuting, they’re working, they’ve got kids. If they have half an hour on a Tuesday night, they’re going to beach or relaxing, and not sitting in a room and talking to elders.
  • I’m coming to the realization that I am now an elder.
  • I’m looking forward to this process with the Trust, and getting through this process of a governance review.
  • Is the Trust able and willing to get into what’s called a Corporate Plan? And do some strategic planning — instead of piller-to-post not well organized.
  • (At the Trust) they come up with wonderful ideas. And if they have a champion, they may go after funding. But if staff is needed to support it, you’ll need more and more staff.
  • It is the same as with the municipality. Everyone has great ideas. Now, after 20 years as a municipality, it is too easy to say, “Get the staff to do it.” We can’t possibly hire all the staff we need. So, there has to be limits.
  • I came to Bowen in 1980. There were (only) 2 trustees and a GVRD representative. But, there were very active volunteer groups.

President Steven Trende began the question period by asking about municipal composting on Bowen. He was hearing that this was too complex to be done by volunteers.

  • JG hasn’t considered composting for while, and may not remember everything. Grant money was received. Action was required by a deadline. We met the deadline. But we found that the amount of green garbage taken off the island was three times the estimate. So the plan needed to be upgraded. So we’d need more machines. Also the machinery was going to be imported — maybe from Europe. There was a similar project that was maybe in Portland, with a Washington company — a larger system, less expensive, and closer to home in terms of maintenance. That was before the last election. There were several other issues (tearing up the street in front of the library, the rusty pipe to nowhere, then a sinkhole (and then 3 more sinkholes)… About 30 years ago we replaced a number of culverts and we don’t have reserves to replace them. Now this has to be done. So, we are not in a position to take on new projects. So, composting is not in the budget and we have to figure out where it will come from.
  • We’ve just received the taxes. That goes into the bank. We’ll get about $30k in interest just because people actually paid their taxes on time. So, we might end up with a surplus. JG laughed, “Surplus, when we are badly in debt!”
  • We (the new council) walked into quite a financial mess.
  • I’ve had friends and neighbours who’ve had to leave (Bowen) for something that is more affordable. I would like to figure out how to do the basics, determine the priorities — My mother’s family is Scottish, so [I was taught] you don’t take out big loans and go into debt.
  • JD talked about council’s strategic planning. They were given huge lists of ‘priorities.’ Their reaction was, ‘This is nuts, this is out of control.’ There was another list of resolutions that hadn’t been signed off. This goes back to 2017. This is on staff’s worksheet. We have to clean that up and find out the priorities. “It looks like my sewing room!”
  • JG talked about morale of the staff. We pile things on and then complain when things are not done. We need to be realistic. Since we were critical before the election, the staff were concerned about what would happen after. We came in wanting to change things, and make things better, and that might have scared staff. Were the staff going to be blamed? We want to help, and sort out the priorities. Now, they are not as defensive and are much more open.
  • JG was asked about the Trust’s priorities. JG talked about the strengths of the Trust (which are not necessarily their priorities). The research that they are doing — fresh water, ground water, and its protection. Pressure for housing on some of the remote islands. More remote islands have to be more self sufficient [than Bowen]. There are some good people on the trust, and younger people. Their primary interest is housing. How to survive without having to hold down three jobs. JG referred to The Rural Islands Economic Partnership (RIEP) — they are talking about ‘the donut economy. It has to be for the benefit of the people who are there without extracting too much from the environment. Tiny footprint, helping each other — being more communal. And figure out the services they want and can provide. JD talked about an emergency where [Bowen Islanders] would have to be self-sufficient for 10 days or a month. Can we do that? We have problems getting food and fuel on to the island. We are quite spoiled because we have so much back-and-forth. If we don’t have it here, we can find it nearby.
  • JG talked about the Recycling Depot on Gabriola. It is huge and they take everything — and don’t want the extra taken off [the island]. JG was interested in the textiles and described the processing. https://www.girodepot.com/. There was a discussion comparing Gabriola to Bowen. It has a slightly larger population. It is close to Nanaimo. JG talked about the water tanker trucks that come to the island daily. All the aquifers are below record levels this year.
  • Councillors campaigned on having a new OCP. But now, the issue of the Park has taken over. Metro Vancouver have come in with an idea, and they don’t seem to be budging from that. They’ve just come with an update: park visitor management, transportation, water sources, etc., and they are still talking about 100 campsites. JG said there are considerable problems with that concept. “We are the tiny little wart on the butt of Metro.” “They are not interested in our ideas. They are pestered by us.” Their transportation report included a paragraph that said: [waiting for the ferry] 2 lanes up the main road, can hold 289 cars, so it can hold 3 boat-loads, so there is never a problem. [Laughter in the room at these absurd and incorrect data.] So, local knowledge says, ‘that’s inaccurate,’ and off-island people saying, ‘This park is going to solve your problems. There is going to be no impact… it is going to be an improvement.’ The board and the park committee are about evenly split on buy it or not, and provide management money or not. We do have allies, and people who are willing to listen. So, there is hope that we might get to a situation where there is something wonderful going on out there — something we can all be proud of. JG mentioned Ellen Hayakawa’s proposal that has sparked more ideas. The emphasis is on children and education. Maybe one bunkhouse, and therefore only one area with amenities. So there would be nature tours, re-wilding, stewardship, and a program that would bring people in the region to CRC for education.
  • Our leverage is that they need us [Council] to rezone for the camping. Right now, in JG’s opinion, no one on Council is in the mood to permit the rezoning.
  • It is a $40m purchase. They’d put $10m down, and were still talking about walking away from it. The sale was complete on May 9th.
  • When asked, why not just say no?,  JG thought there was still the opportunity to create something spectacular. JG loves CRC and talked about some of the areas she knows.
  • JG pointed out that anyone can turn their private land into a park. They [Metro] can do that, but they won’t get the camping. One strategy might be to wait for a new council to achieve the zoning.
  • JG referred to the Islands Trust, Section 3, Legislated Mandate, we are to protect the Trust area’s unique amenities, and environment, for the benefit of the residents of the trust, and for BC generally. The [residents] have put a huge investment into this island. We are heavily invested, and committed.
  • If [the park] attracts so many visitors that it compromises our lives, or stands in the way of an emergency evacuation, is that something we need to be concerned about? JG thinks so. How are we going to help those people if they are stuck here? Our master plan does include evacuation. JG is not sure how up-to-date it is.
  • Lynn K. commented that her son uses BC Parks for camping. All the available spots are taken within hours when the online booking for the summer is made available. That means, if there are 100 spots on Bowen, they will all be booked every night for the whole summer season.
  • JG would like to have a conversation with all of the mayors that have regional parks in their neighborhoods and ask if there should be camping in all of those parks.
  • BC Parks have said, based on their experience with Crippen Park, 21% of the people will walk in to the CRC park, and 38% will bike in. [JG and the assembly realized that this assumption was an outrageously incorrect.] It seems to be the settler attitude. Hi, we’re here from the government and we are here to help you.
  • We are in phase 2 of the process. They’ve given us these reports, and those are going to committees. Parks are committed to having further discussion. JG says she might be the most skeptical person on Council.
  • A concern was expressed about Council’s ability to be an effective negotiator. JG said that the process is that Council has an applicant [for a change in zoning]. We can ask questions, and we can make suggestions. We are trying to go through that process. And we are instructing our staff to have that conversation with their staff. They have the money to hire the best people in the environmental sphere. So some of the best reports are about the value of the land and the species that are on it. We are happy with that. The problem is the political end of it, and that they are rigid about the issue of camping. They are probably getting a large amount of pressure to provide campsites.
  • JG reflected on a partnership with Parks, and noted that there is not much opportunity to sit down and work through problems. And we, as a group, do not have much experience solving problems. The June 14th Committee-of-the-Whole was the first chance Council had to sit around a table and talk about this project. That was very positive. The results of that went to Council for ratification last night, July 10th, and that has gone to Metro and to all of our committees. We didn’t call this ‘our conditions’ [or demands] but ‘our principles.’ It also included our concerns about the [misleading] reports.
  • Some people in our community know how to obtain Freedom of Information [FOA] information. It turns out that there was discussion between Metro and the Province about Apodaca Park. And Metro has asked for a lease on the huge area next to CRC that includes Fairy Fen. That would double the acreage of the CRC park. There was no mention to us. But, there were a series of internal memos.
  • When asked about Council’s bottom line, the point when Council will say no, JG replied, “My understanding at this point is the bottom line is: No net harm to Bowen Island.” So, this means: water, transportation, ferries, fire, etc. We’d be interested [in a proposal] that improves that. So far, what they’ve offered has a complete disregard for our wellbeing. They think that we should be thrilled that they’ve put this property in public hands again.
  • They have to figure out how the visitors are not going to take over the ferries. That might be transit buses from somewhere in Vancouver. That might work with group camping and kids.
  • There was some discussion about camping at Apodaca Park. JG understands that this is part of the ‘Marine Trail’ and they didn’t anticipate the problems with the people who showed up. It is supposedly water access only. There was some discussion about the necessity of reservations there. JG said it is not a good place for camping. [Parks] is being persuaded by the Sea Kayak Association of BC (SKABC) to allow camping. And SKABC is telling everyone that it is now open and, if you arrive by land, ignore the no-trespassing signs. The Province can trump our bylaws, and they have.
  • Note: at https://www.skabc.org/2023/02/message-from-the-president-about-skabc/ their president writes, “We’re involved in another initiative, too. You may have heard in the news of plans for a large walk-in campsite at Cape Roger Curtis on Bowen Island. Well, with much less fanfare, a paddler-only campsite, similar to the Howe Sound sites, is being developed at Apodaca Provincial Park on the east side of Bowen. SKABC involvement started with repeated lobbying of BC Parks to get them to finally follow through with long-standing plans for a water access campsite. We then helped to arrange the required archeological assessment and contributed about thirty-five hundred dollars to the $13,000 cost of this assessment. We also applied for and then received and spent two BC Parks Enhancement Fund grants: $3,000 for trail work and $5,000 for four tent platforms. We are waiting for BC Parks staff to set a date this spring for our volunteers to build the platforms: the necessary materials have already been delivered to the site. BC Parks will build a composting toilet and, if all goes well, the campsite may be open for use as early as this summer.”
  • There was some concern about the new Community Centre, and the high cost of ongoing maintenance. JG responded as the current treasure of Theatre On The Isle (TOTI). It won’t operate at a loss as long was we can fill the available schedule. So it will be a balance among the ticket cost, the municipality’s charge for the use of the space, and the cost of the production. There is a problem with the fundraising. There was a federal grant that was not achieved. Also, there was a decision not to fundraise in competition with the health foundation’s building and Snug Cove House. There is a concern that it could be a big empty white elephant. Without the federal grant, the shortfall is $1.3m.
  • On JG’s hopes for being elected to Council, she commented, “I’ve never had so many letters to the editor published.” “I’ve lived on this island for 40 years now, and I’ve wanted to contribute where I can. It makes it more enjoyable.” “This community has helped me to keep sane!”
  • Judi usually holds an open-house on the first Saturday of the month. She would like to open that to a larger group.

If wish to comment on any of this, or would like to learn more, consider attending Judi Gedye’s monthly meetings.


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