Keely MacDonald’s PlaceMaking subject is ‘What is Vancouver Island’s Best Kept Secret?’ (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

LCS students talk to Lake Cowichan council about PlaceMaking projects

How to make Lake Cowichan more attractive to young folks: that is the question, students say.

Lake Cowichan school students Keely MacDonald and Jewel Irivng told town councillors Nov. 28 about what they see as useful ways to make their school and community more their own.

They also spoke at the Cowichan Theatre Thursday as part of the Valley-wide student PlaceMaking project.

Keely MacDonald, in an address entitled What is Vancouver Island’s Best Kept Secret? spoke about her town, pointing out that “The area is 8.5 km around and has a population of 3013. It’s beautiful Lake Cowichan, home of the second most pristine lake in B.C. This lake is 30 km long and up to 520 feet deep. Lake Cowichan is one of many small communities surrounding the lake. As of 2016 there are over 600 people that are 65 and older in Lake Cowichan so for every one person under 65 there are five people over 65. That being said, Lake Cowichan is being labelled as a great retirement community. We don’t want that. Why? Because we have an equal or greater amount of youth in the community. There are 420 people from 0-14 and from the ages 15-19 we have 216 people. Ever five years, those numbers increase by 5.6 per cent. That being said, for the 685 youth, there’s not a lot to do.”

LCS students

She suggested that while such things as drop-ins at the arena and special events may be great, they don’t happen often enough.

“A lot of buildings in this town seem to be run down or abandoned making this town not as lively as it should be,” she said.

Jewel Irving spoke on the school and its environs, “our second home”, and said her class had taken a walkabout and discovered that in one area near the school, bushes had invaded the sidewalk to the point where disabled students had to go out into the road to get by.

They cleared it away.

Another idea was making a rainbow crosswalk at the school to celebrate diversity among students, and Irving also suggested that a transit bus stop placed near the high school would be helpful for students.

Lake Cowichan councillors were clearly delighted by the presentations, with Mayor Ross Forrest thanking the girls for stepping up and making their ideas known to public officials, and especially for taking action on clearing encroaching blackberries from the sidewalk, a situation that he said, “opened my eyes.”

Coun. Tim McGonigle thanked Irving for her class’s “boots on the ground” all-action approach to problems.

MacDonald asked councillors about forming some kind of student-level town council.

Council has been trying for years to interest the kids at Lake Cowichan School in town politics, and Forrest told her that if she could come up with enough students to make up a council, she’d find that he and his colleagues were more than willing to show them how it all works.

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