An updated 14-page document issued Jan. 25 by the Chemainus Residents Association (CRA) makes the multi-pronged case for the preservation of Echo Heights Forest in its entirety as a public park.
Echo Heights Forest Park — An Opportunity for Sustainability presents the 54-acre recovering coastal Douglas fir forest as an ecologically important place. It points out preservation would be consistent with North Cowichan’s Official Community Plan and community goals. Attributes of the forest include its tourism, recreational and educational values, and enhanced property values. First Nations have historically placed a high value on the area.
Instead of mowing down almost half the area for 200-250 houses, as North Cowichan’s draft plan calls for, the report recommends that Echo Heights be preserved in its entirety through a stewardship arrangement with a specially-formed non-profit organization, as has been done with Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. The report marshals evidence that North Cowichan does not need that land for housing, that it would not be in keeping with community goals and might not even produce the monetary gain the draft plan predicts.
Last fall, North Cowichan’s previous council postponed indefinitely consideration of the Echo Heights Comprehensive Development Plan after first reading. The present council has not yet resumed consideration of the plan, including holding a public hearing. CRA is concerned that Echo Heights’ fate might get entwined with council’s current budget deliberations.