About 200 people packed Edward Milne Elementary School’s auditorium on March 3 to talk about developer Ender Ilkay’s plans to build along the Juan de Fuca trail.
The proposed development would include a resort, recreational buildings, lodges and 263 cabins 100 metres from the trail. The development, affecting 17 kilometres of the trail, has outdoor enthusiasts, locals and environmentalists concerned about the ecological integrity of the area. It also falls into larger concerns about continued approval of urban sprawl developments by the Capital Regional Districts (CRD).
A wide mosaic of concerns was brought up at the public meeting held by the CRD, with the great majority of attendees supporting a moratorium on urban sprawl developments in the region. Ilkay and a panel of others — including consultants, economists and representatives from the CRD — heard questions and concerns over the proposed development.
Concerns ranged from the degraded wilderness experience that developments would cause; misplaced development in between Jordan River and Port Renfrew where there community infrastructure is already struggling; economic viability; damage to the ecological integrity of the area; illegitimate purchase of the land; unsustainable urban sprawl in the CRD; and unsettled land claims of the Pacheedaht First Nations, including the 583 acres purchased by Marine Holdings, currently zoned as Resource Lands (RL). The unsettled land claims also pertains to the cultural implication of the area in terms of traditions, edible and medicinal wild plants, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), and a historical interrelatedness with the land itself.
“Our problem is that you were allowed to buy this land in the first place,” said Edward Pullman, a UVic student who works with the UVic Sustainability Project (UVSP). “It was an enormously illegitimate decision at the time of the tree farm licenses transfer and it’s all in the auditor general’s report. We need to respect urban containment boundaries . . . and if you don’t we have no chance at livable, sustainable communities.”
In January 2007, the provincial government decided to remove over 28,000 hectares of private land from three Vancouver Island tree farm licenses held by
Western Forest Products.
“I was a member of the Official Community Plan committee [for Shirley and Jordan River], back when it was forestry land,” said Sue Innis, who now lives in
Shirley. “And we were totally shocked that this could happen. With all due respect to Ilkay — he does great developments — I just don’t like where it is. Jordan River could be a town again; Port Renfrew, they need it. Don’t put it right in the middle.”
“If you buy a house where a couple got divorced, are you responsible for the divorce?” said Ilkay in response.
Arguments in favour of the development pertained to the predicted 95 full-time jobs that would be created. A Marine Trail Holdings economist explained that it would be more like 150 jobs, with some being part-time, and the average compensation would be around $43,000 annually.
Another argument that emerged in favour of the proposed development suggested that the development would be a better alternative to logging, which is what the land is currently zoned for; and that, considering that Ilkay’s approach is one that refers to eco-tourism and claims high environmental standards for the resort, it ought to be a welcome use of the land over logging.
“[Ilkay] is an extremely ethical man, with a world-class vision of this area,” said a Shirley resident at the microphone.
“I’ve worked with him in the recent months as a carpenter. Our economy is shifting from resource-based economics to a tourist-based economy. I think that the proposal that [Ilkay] is putting forward, if it’s done with the utmost care . . . will be nothing but a good thing, whether it be for First Nations, Victoria people, or people that live out here. I thank [Ilkay] for having the courage to go through with this process because we didn’t have to. I’ve seen [Ilkay] in action with my own eyes. He’s got excellent taste. And he has a real passion for keeping the wilderness intact for all of us to enjoy in the years to come.”
However, Ilkay also has a history of angering locals, First Nations and environmentalists with his developments, as is the case with his Sheringham Point developments, and the Juan de Fuca development have hit the heartstrings of a lot of people. Ilkay has had to involve the RCMP with regard to threatening emails directed at him and direct action resisting this development is likely to increase, especially as people start to draw similarities between the Bear Mountain Development and Marine Trail Holdings.
“The Pacheedaht indigenous First Nations has well defined boundaries . . . Our ancestral warriors fought for these lands,” said Stacey Jones, direct bloodline of hereditary Pacheedaht chiefmanship and a residential school survivor.
“We always respect the boundaries and being on each other’s lands. The Pacheedaht never ever sold or surrendered its private traditional territory. So the unceded Pacheedaht was always the private territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation. All government and developers have done severe encroachment on our territory. We have a window of opportunity through the UN international court systems to get some of our waterfront lands for our own development; to protect the forest, — the lungs of the mother earth; to protect our cultural trees, cedar; to protect our sacred medicinal plants.”