Pursuit of yet another park seems unusually vigorous

Let’s spend the funds for far more pressing needs

Dear Editor,

About the creation of a very large new park within Kitimat’s municipal boundaries with several kilometres of wilderness paths in Grizzly Bear territory at so called ‘Minette Bay West’, the effort by Administration in pursuit of yet another park seems unusually vigorous, and we are concerned for all the reasons that we wrote to our Council about last month.

The wish for an enormous park of 191 hectares on the swampy lowlands of Minette Bay is driven by the wish for something that cannot be delivered by the geography of lots 471 and 95, and that a much better solution is to simply and inexpensively dedicate the acres to a Grizzly Bear Sanctuary and develop more needed assets for the town elsewhere.

Such would enable that unique wildlife feature to help to promote Kitimat, and the cost of red ink on a page is zero compared to the proposal of a million of our tax dollars for soggy paths and a demand for rubbish collectors.

If we don’t have to borrow it, let’s spend the funds for far more pressing needs, as to saddle the taxpayers of Kitimat with another million dollar debt, while we continue to chip away at the huge mortgage for the recent multimillion dollar pool upgrade, would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility.

Having attended the phase 1 and 2 public meetings where more than half of the 40 – 50 present on each occasion opted for minimal or no development at all (an option not offered by Administration), it seems highly peculiar that the most recent iteration of the survey now suggests that only 13 per cent of the respondents want minimum development.

Of note is that those that wanted no development were not included in the Fig 23/24 graphs of the MBW proposal and one’s impression of support for excessive development would therefore be skewed.

Perhaps the difference could also be explained by the fact that those that took the time to attend the first two meetings are more likely to have a genuine interest, are familiar with and visit Minette Bay regularly, mostly on foot, and those that were tackled by administration at shopping events (Fall Craft Sale, Love Kitimat Trade Show &Light up Kitimat – after the deadline for completion was extended as questionnaire returns were very low), were much less likely to have an interest or to have an understanding of the issues – some from town have never been to Minette Bay and others purloined were even visitors from out of town.

These figures contrast greatly with a poll conducted on the Kitimat Facebook Politics page, where the simple and uninfluenced question was asked whether or not there should be any development at MBW…in the end 19 wished development against 42 who wanted none…also small numbers, but nearly 70 per cent of the engaged voters were against any development.

An attendance of 40-50 at the two public meetings and a total return of around 200 questionnaires would suggest an astonishing lack of interest in a new park. This means that at least 97.5 per cent of Kitimat residents are ambivalent to, or have absolutely no interest in a new park, inspite of months of expensive studies and publicity by Administration.

At such a low level of interest Council has absolutely no mandate from town to proceed with this project and add to everyone’s tax burden. Public support for this project is incredibly low. Not one more penny should be spent.

We have just a few other related points:

* The two district lots are still there to be enjoyed by those that wish to hike around them on the several gravel roads, paths and tracks that have long been there, however in 22 years at Minette Bay Lodge, other than duck hunters, we have not seen anyone venture into lot 471, and we suggest that with so many alternate paths, parks and trails in and around town, genuine interest in hiking in this marshy lowland area is extremely low.

* There is an offering in the MBW proposal for a vast carpark with a large washroom. There has been an urgent need for such a thing elsewhere in town for many years. The riverside camping by fishermen and their families near the Giant Spruce has been an embarrassment, an eyesore and health hazard for many years and is mentioned in the most recent 2008 Official Community Plan as a priority.

“It is critical to balance environmental protection with socioeconomic benefits that fishing the Kitimat River provides.”

It then goes on to highlight “the environmental degradation that is occurring from unregulated camping on the riverbank”. This surely should be the DoK’s first priority with public funds. A well designed campground away from the riverbank, with running water, showers and flushing lavatories, will bring economic benefits in the form of a nightly charge and swelling numbers of happy returning fishermen and their families with holiday money to spend in town.

* Funds to refurbish the neglected Hirsch Creek and the Radley Parks, both of which are on water, would be money well spent, and may both encourage tourists and bring out families again who have long since given up going.

* Administration has highlighted that DoK lands at Minette Bay are proposed within the OCP to one day become a public park, true, however what is not mentioned is that the OCP also recommends that while the town’s population is in decline, no more parks should be contemplated.

* A suggestion that Administration might work towards public access at the lovely sandy beach at Emsley Cove, and then for Jesse Lake, was rebuffed because, inspite of evidence to the contrary provided by the KLRMP stakeholders survey, its alleged proximity to prime Grizzly Bear habitat and archeologically sensitive sites make it unsuitable…even if true, aren’t these also exactly the same reasons that development at Minette Bay West shouldn’t be considered?

We hope very much Council will come to the conclusion against their fast held wishes that as fewer than two per cent of our citizens have shown an interest in this development there is no mandate whatsoever to take this further, and that the construction and maintenance of a very large and unregulated park on behalf of the very few who might like to experience the outdoors with Grizzly Bears, at a cost of over a million of our tax dollars, is neither safe, sensible nor in the long run a benefit for the town or its citizens.

The plans are expensive, and wasteful of everyone’s’ hard earned taxes which, in addition to the cost of a new Service Centre Kitimat River Bridge will result in higher municipal taxes.

We hope instead that very inexpensively, these special and particular lands could be zoned as a Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, and that such would be a far higher and better use.

We hope that Council might instead turn their attention, and our currently diminutive municipal funds, to cleaning up the riverbank camping with a new and hygienic campground with modern facilities that will bring fishermen and their friends back to Kitimat year after year.

Respectfully submitted, Howard and Ruth Mills, Minette Bay Lodge.