Despite recent concerns about trees slated to be cut, Cumberland council gave the official go-ahead needed for the Cumberland school merging project to move forward.
Council voted last week to adopt a bylaw to close and dispose of the section of Ulverston Avenue between Egremont Road and First Street, running between the elementary and junior schools.
The Comox Valley School District plans to turn the road into green space with playground equipment as part of the project to merge the two schools into a learning campus by September.
Part of the plan includes removing a number of trees from the east side of the property next to the elementary school to create space for a drop-off and pick-up loop. About 40 trees were marked, and some students and community members expressed concern about cutting down trees on the site.
School district representatives attended last week’s council meeting and said five of the trees slated for removal are big, healthy trees, but many are small and unhealthy.
“These trees, if we don’t take them out, we won’t have sufficient space to do the proper drive-through park and drop-off for the kids,” district director of operations Ian Heselgrave told council. “If we had a way we could not have a (parking) lot here, we would certainly pursue that.”
District secretary treasurer Russell Horswill added the drive-through loop is important to student safety and must be located near the entrance to the elementary building, as parental practice is to drop young children off as close to the school doors as possible. Without the loop, parents would likely stop on Egremont Street, which would cause congestion there, he said.
As well, the loop couldn’t go on the north side of the school near Egremont, as this spot is slated to house a playing field at a later date as part of the long-term plans for the site, he added.
Plans for the green space where the road now sits include planting more trees than will be removed, and the trees planted will be diverse species.
Coun. Roger Kishi pointed out his main concern was about the amount of public process included in the project.
“My concern was that there was a lot of public concern about the trees because people didn’t know what was happening, so my concern was more about the public awareness and public consultation part of the planning,” he said, asking the representatives to assure him there will be “more robust” community consultation in the future.
Representatives assured Kishi the community will play a large role in the visioning process for the school.
Mayor Leslie Baird said she likes the plan, noting the loop appears more safe than the current set-up.
“I think it’s actually quite scary when you’re up there as a parent or grandparent watching those kids arrive and leave the school, so this will be an improvement,” she said. “I hope the tree issue, people understand.”
According to Heselgrave, the expected start date for work is July 7 with completion of this phase finishing by Aug. 31.
For more about the plan, including the educational vision and long-range plan for the site, visit http://cumberlandschool.ca.