The local municipal election campaign is in full swing with the familiar platforms and promises around water and sewer, paving, recycling, recreation, affordable housing and business development.
Predictably, we are not hearing much about broader issues such as the need for open space conservation and preservation plan and how important one is for environmental protection and community sustainability.
These issues are not that exciting especially when voters and politicians are talking about roads and water and sewer. But Conception Bay South does need a focus on open space to provide parks, walking trails, better protection of our rivers and coastline, and reduced flooding and erosion. These are things that are important for community sustainability.
The types and benefits of open spaces for C.B.S. are already well documented. They are outlined in an Open Spaces/Recreation Plan prepared for the town in 2008 by Tract Consulting, owned by local resident and landscape architect Neil Dawe.
The plan, prepared by Dawe and his team after extensive community and council consultations in 2007 and 2008, was to be a blueprint for the future.
The recreation aspects have received attention — new stadium and improvements to existing parks. However, the open space focus has been largely ignored by council and now during the campaign.
The plan is a comprehensive overview of what is needed, but some recommendations are worth noting.
The first is that open space needs to be part of community land development and that it’s not being done in C.B.S. where only about 10 per cent of our total area is open space. There are recommendations about preserving agricultural and heritage lands, designating and purchasing land for open space for current and future generations, but little or nothing accomplished in the past five years.
Another key recommendation is to increase our existing 15-metre buffer along the coast and rivers to a 30-metre buffer. The increase would provide greater protection from drainage and flooding and, more importantly, reduce development close to our rivers and coast.
The need for a larger buffer zone is becoming increasingly evident with our changing climate. For instance, the town recently approved another $17,000 to reinforce the coastline in several areas where recent storm surges are threatening homes and public buildings. This is becoming a recurring expense for the town. Last year thousands were spent on a breakwater behind Topsail soccer field and other areas of the town where the coastline is eroding.
Even where there is an open-space designation, there are ways to have it changed. The town is considering an application to rezone some land along Seal Cove River, currently designated as open space conservation, to residential to facilitate a 30-home subdivision on the C.B. Highway in Seal Cove.
The need for more trails emerged as the main priority of residents during the plan’s consultation process, so the plan states that more open space will achieve this goal. We do keep hearing about the T’Railway development, which has been a work in progress since the late 1990s, so hopefully that will lead to more new open spaces and trails.
The plan states that the public identified the need for an urban park, similar to Bannerman or Bowring Park in St. John’s. A parcel of land on Metcalfe’s Lane was even identified at the time as a potential urban park, but the recommendation was not implemented, nor any other space obtained for a future park.
The council in 2007 felt it was important enough to allocate money for a plan and, sadly, five years later, many of the open space recommendations are still outstanding. There is plenty in the report that could become part of an election campaign and win votes for candidates.
If you are interested in reviewing the plan, visit the town’s website or Tract Consulting at www.tractconsulting.com.
Joan Butler is a lifelong resident of Kelligrews, Conception Bay South. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.