Big Bay on Stuart Island is the site of a proposed community park. Photo by Bruce McPherson Photography

Strathcona Regional District moves ahead on creating community park on Stuart Island

Water lease will have to be settled as part of the process

  • Aug. 9, 2018 12:00 a.m.

A lengthy project to set aside a former school site at one of the Discovery Islands as a community park has taken another step forward.

At the last Strathcona Regional District (SRD) meeting, the board received a letter from Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson stating her ministry would sponsor a plan to turn the site on Stuart Island, situated at the mouth of Bute Inlet, into a regional district park.

“I can’t tell you how pleased I am,” Area C Director Jim Abram said at the July 18 meeting. “It has finally happened after all this time.”

The island includes fishing lodges and large estates but includes some year-round residents. In the past there had been a school that served Stuart Island and the surrounding islands and some of the mainland, though it has been closed for years now.

“It’s kind of a different place now than it was,” he said.

The proposal concerns one hectare of land near Big Bay on the west side of the island. The process had to go through the school district for support. The School District No. 72 facility plan for 2015 to 2025 lists the site as surplus property that would not likely be needed by the district.

The Ministry of Education then had to sign off on it, followed by the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) and on to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing for sponsorship. It will now go back to FLNRORD for review.

“We have gone through that process pretty much to the letter,” Abram said. “We have now acquired a piece of property, which will now allow us to acquire the water lease in front of it, which is being charged to the community association, which we help fund.”

Earlier in July, the Strathcona Regional District received notice from Robinson that the province is sponsoring the application for a Sponsored Crown Grant (SCG) for the community park in the amount of $350,000 to cover the land.

“Obtaining sponsorship is the first step in the application process for a Province of British Columbia SCG,” Martin wrote in her letter to the SRD.

The letter continues that this does not guarantee final approval from the province. Sponsorship is part of the process to inform provincial government staff coordinating Crown land applications and FLNRORD staff that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing supports the proposed use of Crown land.

While the sponsorship covers the value of the land, any additional costs identified during application will have to be covered by the regional district.

Examples would include legal, surveying and appraisal, advertising, development and marketing costs.

Martin also wrote that the province may request that the SRD engage with local First Nations prior to any transfer of land.

Ultimately, the SRD will enter into an agreement with the community association for use under the SRD’s parks system. Lining up the land for the park is only part of the process though, as Abram said they need to settle transferring the water licence to the Strathcona Regional District for the property as well as questions around the cost of the lease, which is currently being treated as a commercial lease as opposed to only a nominal fee lease. The dock and water lease had been under Transport Canada until it was divested.

“This is one of the first ones in Area C that was divested, quite some time ago, probably more than 10 years,” Abram said.

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