The track: when they go low, we go high
A year ago, 1,500 citizens of the Cowichan Valley came together to form Where Do We Stand, a public platform to advocate for the highest and best uses of our Six Mountain Community Forests.
A month ago, at the public hearing about the planned expansion of the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit (VIMC), I spoke on behalf of many of those citizens concerned about the noise impact on the six mountains. I was by no means alone.
When the hearing concluded, council voted 5-2 to deny the rezoning amendment that would have allowed the expansion to proceed. Given the controversial history of the track, clearly it was a difficult decision. Despite intense pressure from all sides and the potential legal risks, council demonstrated political courage and integrity. This was a significant decision as it ensured mistakes made by the previous administration in phase one of the track were not extended further; for this, we commend them.
So why did council recently vote to revisit the track decision? We haven’t been given all the information. The little information available about the track negotiations, from their beginnings, is both stunning and suspicious. On the other hand, the councillors who voted against the expansion did not hide their expressions when they were, for procedural reasons, forced to vote for a second hearing. Go to WhereDoWeStand.ca to watch the clip of the council meeting and you’ll get the picture. From the information we have been given, it seems there are no procedural or legal reasons that will force our five councillors, who voted on the side of the greater community, not to do so again.
Advocates for the track have stated they represent our community’s greater interest. At the last public hearing, they said VIMC has put North Cowichan on the map. People in China already know about the racetrack, they said, and the expansion will only increase this knowledge.
To these statements, all I have to say is: have these VIMC advocates heard of the extraordinary 5,000-hectare, Six Mountain Community Forests of North Cowichan? Are they unaware of the impacts generated by the existing track operation? Do they not know that more than 100,000 residents and visitors are drawn to the Six Mountains annually to walk, bike, and experience tranquility? These 100,000 people are not visiting the Six Mountains to listen to race cars drown out the birds. Fortunately, at the last public hearing, council and the public demonstrated awareness of the inestimable long-term values — spiritual, social, ecological, economic — of our forests.
At the first public hearing, I said what I believed at the time — the track debate wasn’t about right versus wrong but simply about two different experiences — people who seek peace in nature versus people who race cars. Which is to say, the sound of a race car may be music to the ears of some, whereas the same noise in the forest, to humans and animals, sounds like a one ton mosquito driving through one’s auditory nerves.
I now take this back. I believe this hearing is about right versus wrong. It feels terribly wrong that a corporation, who gave the impression of supporting our community, now takes off the mask and threatens to sue us for $60 million. In light of the current threat, it’s up to us, as citizens, to not be intimidated and to show up and speak again Dec. 9 to support the five councillors who have made it clear they will vote for the greater good of our community.
The decision made following the hearing will impact the extraordinary gift of this beautiful Valley, the nature increasingly rare in this world; it is what we will be remembered for as a community and as council. It is this simple. The truth is always simple.
Where Do We Stand