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Robert Barron column: Parking lot in Taylor Park was never a good idea

I wondered if any staff or board directors from the CVRD had ever actually visited the park
Robert’s column

I consider it good news that the Cowichan Valley Regional District has decided not to turn Taylor Park into a big parking lot for people visiting the historic Kinsol Trestle.

It seemed to be pretty much common sense to me that the proposal for a 100-vehicle parking lot at the site, an approximately five-acre undeveloped property just off Renfrew Road near Shawnigan Lake, should be abandoned after a tour of the park last March that I had with Shawn Taylor, for whom the park is named.

Taylor, who donated much of the park’s property to the CVRD in 2004 in good faith that it remain a park as part of rezoning application he was involved in at the time, was adamant that it remain in its natural state, mainly because most of it is a fish-bearing wetland.

When he handed the property over to the CVRD, he envisioned no more development there than some picnic tables and a play area in the central dry portion of the property where visitors could observe the passing fish in the nearby streams.

While he was showing me around the park property, I noticed that there were numerous Department of Fisheries and Oceans signs placed near the small waterways stating that the streams running through the park are important fish habitats, and encouraged visitors to respect and protect the resource.

I reached out to DFO about the signs and was told in an email that the signs were provided for educational purposes by DFO community advisors to community groups who place the signs near salmon-bearing streams.

DFO also said, despite the fact that the CVRD was well along in the planning process, the department had not received any inquiries about the district’s plans for the park at that stage.

I think that should have been at the top of the agenda considering the considerable amount of wetlands on the property.

I wondered if any staff or board directors from the CVRD had ever actually visited the park before an environmental consulting company was hired to conduct an assessment of the site, at a cost of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

I can’t say I was shocked when the consultants concluded that Taylor Park has environmentally sensitive wetlands, and the area that is developable within the park is too small for the planned parking lot.

Anyone who is familiar with the park, including the Shawnigan Basin Society and the Cowichan Valley Naturalists who opposed the construction of the parking lot, knows you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to conclude it just isn’t a good place for large-scale construction of any kind.

So, after many months of the CVRD bouncing the idea around and the Taylor family going through the anguish of dealing with the possibility that their beloved park could soon be paved over, the CVRD finally rejected its plan for the parking lot in the park and is now looking for a more suitable location for it.

Mike Wilson, CVRD director for Cobble Hill, said at the board meeting on July 27 that the Taylor family has been through considerable stress, both psychologically and financially, over the issue.

He asked that the CVRD ensure the Taylor family and residents of the district that no further plans to encroach on the property will happen again, and said he will prepare a director’s report on the issue that will be presented at a future meeting.

I hope that, after all the discussions at the CVRD board table and staff and consultant’s reports on the issue, the district finally decides to just put a few picnic tables in the dry area of the park and build the play area for children that Taylor has hoped for since 2004.

It would be a far better use of the area than turning it into a parking lot.

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