No three words are more likely to raise blood pressures on Bowen than “Cape Roger Curtis.” Strong feelings on all sides still make it difficult to consider any other future for the Cape than the current 59 ten-acre lots. Now the owners of the Cape on Bowen are thinking of rezoning their 30-odd unsold lots. I hear a collective gulp.
Having publicly resisted development and docks at the Cape, imagine my surprise when Candy Ho, executive officer of the Cape on Bowen, asked me to help her professionally to build connections with people interested in environmental issues on the island –which is pretty much everyone. She hoped I would ask you what elements could make a good plan.
That’s brave. It was like Superman asking Lex Luthor to fix his brakes.
The recent success of the Grafton Lake rezoning may open our minds to more conservation development on Bowen. There, 237 acres of forest surrounding the lake will become public land in trade for higher density of housing on the rest of the property. Council and the Advisory Planning Commission are working on a conservation development policy as well. What if we could create 150 acres of protected forest at the Cape? The owners and community tried and failed before - but could we do better?
Getting to know and respect Candy Ho, I find we have far more access and receptiveness with her than, say, the Ministry of Forests re. logging on Bowen’s Crown lands. So I’m working with her to open channels of communication in person and online to hear and share everyone’s ideas about the future of the Cape – and if you wish, its controversial past.
We’ve created a website at envisionthecape.ca to show the Cape as it looks today, with maps, background info and lots of opportunity to comment and become an ongoing part of the conversation. Currently, there is no rezoning plan, despite the speculative artist’s conception that emerged last fall. We’re starting with the environment, but will expand to all topics people wish to raise. Don and Candy Ho are very motivated to create a “campus of care” for people to grow old in, and a retreat centre overlooking the Cape. Diverse housing options are also high on their agenda.
I’ll be leaving in mid-July to live in Switzerland for a year, but I’ll stay just as engaged and the lines will remain open. I hope to leave the island without pitchfork holes in my butt.
This early process is just one form of the discussion, and may or may not result in a plan we as a community can endorse. But in Muni politics I’ve found that the best time to be involved is “two years ago” –long before a public hearing.
It takes a certain kind of person to rush in where angels fear to tread, and I may be that sort of person. But if we are ever going to take the risk of failing again in pursuit of a higher reward, I feel this is the time. What I’m thinking about are the lands that are still intact and how Bowen can best protect its natural heritage - our lungs, our Ark.