WRITTEN BY DEBRA LYNN
The Village of Port Alice held a Official Community Plan Update Open House at the community centre on Sept. 6 that was moderated by Chris Fields, land use consultant from John Watson Consulting.
Fields started out discussing the importance of developing an official community plan and zoning bylaws. He says, “An OCP is the primary plan… that conveys vision of your future.”
According to Fields, developing an OCP starts with answering the following questions, “Who is Port Alice? Why does it matter? What do you want to be uniquely Port Alice in the world and future?”
Once an OCP is established, everything flows out of it right down to work plans for staff. Fields talked about some issues related to development of a direction for a community.
He explained that government can only do so much, that people need to “stop barking at each other.”
He says they can “agree to disagree” but to do “things in a progressive and ambitious way and working together.”
He admits that change is “really uncomfortable,” that “when we don’t know the future, we fight for what we know.” As a result, development plans often tend to get “stuck in 20 to 30 years ago.”
He adds, “The job is to peer into the future, see change for what it is, being comfortable with a lot of it, but see opportunities and key things that align with your sense of self and the sense of direction that you want to achieve and take advantage of those.”
Fields outlined that the demographic is changing, and that it requires residents to be adaptable and embrace change.
“20 per cent of our workforce, and growing in Canada, is now nomadic: creators, independent entrpreneurs, digital nomads, remote workers…” He emphasizes, “that’s a tremendous opportunity in rural areas…”
As a final point, he impressed that making communities beautiful is becoming increasingly important in a world with a growing nomadic workforce that is interested in “quality of life.”
Fields wrapped up by saying “I want you to think creatively. When you’re thinking about your future, be bold, be ambitious.” He emphasized, “…don’t despair that you are a small community with a small tax base and therefore things aren’t possible. Creatively is amazing. It’s ideas in the head, and actually the most creative ideas things often come out of having no money.”
After his talk, Fields then asked participants to respond to a survey by texting on their cell phones. Their answers produced and modified, in real time, results on the projector screen in the form of either a “word cloud” or a graph. The largest words in the word clouds represented ideas that were repeated more often.
For the question, “What makes Port Alice different or better than other places?” The most prominent word cloud responses were ‘community,’ ‘beauty,’ ‘caving,’ ‘nature,’ ‘kayaking,’ ‘whales’ and ‘caves.’
For “What is THE ONE WORD that says everything there is to say about why Port Alice is a special place?” the strongest responses were ‘caving,’ ‘remote’ and ‘ocean.’
For the question, “15 years from now, what should Port Alice uniquely be known for?” the strongest results on a graph were ‘active outdoor recreation hub’ at 29 per cent, followed by ‘tourism’ at 14 per cent, then ‘housing innovation/affordability’ and ‘green innovator/eco-tourism/alternative energy’ both at 11 per cent.’
Participants were asked what initiatives were important to them in consideration of a positive and ambitious future for Port Alice? The most prominent results on a graph were, ‘fill vacant properties/space’ at 15 per cent, ‘business retention and expansion initiatives’ and ‘economic development program’ both at 13 per cent.
When asked to imagine Port Alice in 2035 has achieved, not only the ambitious but the exceptional, what BIG IDEAS did we step into, the largest words in the word cloud were ‘hotel,’ ‘tourism,’ ‘restaurant,’ ‘playground’ and ‘community forests.’
When asked to use single words that capture their VISION for the future of Port Alice, the largest word was ‘tourism’, followed by ‘growth,’ ‘eco-industry,’ ‘sustainable’ and ‘families.’
When asked if Port Alice needs growth and development, there was complete consensus at 100 per cent.
For the third phase of the workshop, the participants, seated at four tables, were provided with a large sheet of bristol board, a map of Port Alice and some markers. They were asked to write down what they love about Port Alice, what are Port Alice’s biggest challenges, and how to address those challenges.
In their presentation, the first group expressed appreciation for the marina, Lion’s Park, the seawalk, hiking trails, the school, the community centre, the coffee shop, Dawson’s Landing, the Link River Campground and other rec sites, the view and the urgent care centre. Challenges they outlined included housing, restaurants, attracting families, small parks and the lack of a big festival or event. They felt solutions should include incentivizing development, more youth programs, a modern playground, splash pad and daycare to attract families, more marketing for tourism options as well as prioritizing trail development.
Group 2 loved the entry to Port Alice, Dawson’s landing, the view, Jeune Landing, hiking trails, Lion’s Park, the seawalk, the dyke walk, the community centre, the newly renovated library, the thrift store, the Urgent Care Centre, the community garden and the cell tower. They suggested Port Alice needs more population to preserve amenities. Also needed is some form of public transportation in the Tri-Port area for people who don’t have cars. They felt something needs to be done with dead retail space, as well as the decrepit Quatsino hotel. Port Alice needs to attract entrepreneurs and promote food sustainability for infrastructure break downs. They also suggested holding a well-funded photo contest for top photographers for the purpose of promoting Port Alice on social media around the world.
Group 3 appreciated the walks and the beautiful unobstructed view of the inlet, the friendly community spirit, the Urgent Care Centre and the community centre. They felt Port Alice needs to rectify aging infrastructure by increasing the tax base. They felt the community needs a liaison to work with government to obtain grants. They also felt it was important to update wildlife laws and promote wildlife awareness. They believed it was important to keep the community affordable.
Group 4 loved the Frigon Islands, the golf course, the coffee shop, the access to the Wild West Coast, the village’s garbage man, the seawalk, the dyke walk, the Walkout Islands, Lion’s Park, the ball diamond, the community centre, the marina, the affordable recreation, the kayaking, the ecotours, the fishing and people’s generosity. They said Port Alice needs to work at maintaining infrastructure, to actively use and advocate for their health care, encourage investment with grants, encourage new business and enlarge the tax base for more growth. They felt that something needs to be done about the Quatsino Hotel, that Port Alice needs a year-round campground and to deal with any trees overtaking the view of the inlet.
The findings from this workshop will be used by John Watson Consulting to help develop draft directions for updating Port Alice’s OCP.
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