Around 60 people filed into Aggie Hall to discuss sustainability in Ladysmith.
The session was led by Mark Holland, formerly of HB Lanarc, who took the lead hand in Ladysmith’s visioning process in 2008 and 2009.
Participants were given the opportunity to pick three topics from a list of five — Economic, Natural Environment, Built Environment, Social and Cultural and Working Together.
Then three half-hour workshops were held where people had a chance to talk about different issues in each section, what actions they could take on a daily basis and what would motivate them to do more.
At the end of each workshop, people were invited to put a sticker next to the two initiatives they would like to see addressed.
For Arts and Culture, some of the top priorities selected by the groups were: Better funding for arts programs, rejuvenated and expanded public spaces, developing relationships with Stz’uminus First Nation.
For the Economic section, people would like to see the town look closely at attracting green businesses, exploring eco-tourism and exploring home-based businesses.
In terms of the Natural Environment, the people in attendance wanted to see the expansion of protected areas, protection of Holland Creek and the harbour and more parkland.
When it comes to our Built Environment (buildings) people wanted to see more done with the densification of downtown and new developments, appropriate development of the waterfront and exploration of partnerships with the Island Corridor Foundation to better develop the rail line.
And for the Working Together with other groups people wanted to see better communication so groups aren’t duplicating the same work, reviewing regional transit, improving the town website (which will be operational by Oct. 31) and holding regular town hall meetings at least twice a year.
People also gave their thoughts on priorities that included finding ways to better support and facilitate volunteers, and better linking parts of town with multi-use pathways.
Participants were also asked to highlight some of their other priorities at the end of the evening.
Len Manuel was one of the Ladysmith residents in the crowd and noted there was a lot of information for people to take in.
“I think overall the process was very positive,” said Manuel, who attended the natural environment, arts and culture and partnerships workshops. “It was a great opportunity for people to give input.”
The town will be presented with a report from the three-hour workshop in a few weeks. Manuel said he is looking forward to the report and how the different initiative are prioritized, especially the new priorities people could highlight.
Manuel said he heard some excellent suggestions including the need to connect Ladysmith and Nanaimo with public transportation and the need to get more involved with the arts.
Another attendant, Pam Fraser, said she thought the process was overall very positive and was glad to have contributed to the discussion.
“I think it’s admirable that they’re trying for citizens input,” said Fraser, noting the tight time line made the broad topics difficult to explore.
Fraser said she thought there was a fair consensus on where to move forward, but did not like that the priorities were pre-selected for people to choose.
However, she is aware of the time constraints. Further such workshops would work well with a more narrow focus, she added.
Fraser was also wary of whether the group present are representative of the community and would like to see some other kind of surveying done to compliment the information received.
“All that said, I still think it was a worthwhile exercise.”
Fraser had time to attend the partnerships, social and cultural and built environments workshops.
Coun. Bruce Whittington was present for the session and was pleased to see the appetite for more in the future.
“That is something we should look at doing,” said Whittington, adding the council knows it could do more in terms of communicating with the community.
“I think there is a real willingness to reach out to the community.”
Whittington said there were some interesting ideas stemming from the workshop including the need for a public policy for art in town.
“It’s one way for supporting the arts community.”
Coun. Scott Bastian said he found the residents at the meeting very open with their comments.
One of the big things that stuck out for Bastian was the demographic of the people at the meeting.
There were very few people under 30.
Bastian said there was a good range of ideas presented, and noted many have been raised before, such as concerns with the trolley, that people wanted updates to.