South of Qualicum Beach’s Ravensong Aquatic Centre is a well-used forested area of trails used by people and pets.
However, parts of it could soon be cleared to make way for a temporary supportive housing project and eventually an expanded public works yard.
“Essentially all I have to say is if the town wants to go forward and take away part of our community assets, part of where our kids grew up, where we spend our days running, I think they need to come out and they need to talk to us and they need to consult with us,” said Ezra Morse, Qualicum Nature Preservation Society President.
The Town of Qualicum Beach admits there’s been a lack of consultation but says it was critically important to apply for a government grant for temporary dry recovery housing units.
BC Housing had rejected another site near the airport.
There will be 10 units on the less than one-hectare property for clients experiencing homelessness and the project will end after nine months when plans for a combined parks and public works yard will proceed.
“We always prefer having more consultation prior to, but in this case, the option was a missed opportunity and have nothing or take the opportunity and advance with our best foot forward and our best foot forward is this location,” said Daniel Sailland, the Town of Qualicum Beach’s chief administrative officer.
Although there will be a public outreach meeting Thursday on Zoom, many residents say they only found out about it three days ago when Morse posted about it on social media.
Since then an online petition opposing what they call “deforestation” of the site quickly garnered nearly 1,400 signatures by late this afternoon.
Residents who use the trails say the trees and park-like setting need to stay.
“It’s accessible and the town just recently redid the walkways which has made it even better and more surprising that they want to remove a lot of it,” said resident Kathy Desjardins.
Sailland says the town will move 200 metres of the existing trail.
“My kids use it, I use it and we walk through the park and it’s just sad that there’s not more public consultation,” said resident Anna Sjoo.
“It’s an area that’s near and dear to people’s hearts and it’s never an easy decision whenever we go down this path,” added Sailland.