Students and environmentalists protest development of Juan De Fuca trail
Opponents of West Vancouver developer Ender Ilkay’s Marine Trail Resort along 16 kilometers of the Juan De Fuca trail headed to the streets Wednesday to demand a moratorium on urban sprawl. A diverse coalition of concerned university students rallied outside the Central Regional District (CRD) Office Feb. 23 in protest of Ilkay’s planned resort.
The students were joined by environmental groups such as the Forest Action Network, the Dogwood Initiative, the Victoria Labour Council, the Sea-to-Sea Greenbelt Society, Jordan River Steering Committee, The Sierra Club, The Coalition against Poverty and the Western Wilderness Committee and members of the Pacheedaht First Nations.
Rally organizer Matt Loewen says he hopes, “to put some pressure on the CRD, to let them know that there are a lot of people who are angry about this, not just the big organizations.” The rally was specifically targeted at a scheduled Planning Transportation and Protective Services Committee meeting at the CRD’s downtown building.
That committee reviewed earlier proposals of Ilkay’s controversial development. “They’re handing over our land to the resort people,” Pacheedaht elder Russel Jones told a Juan De Fuca Land Use Committee meeting last week in Sooke. “If you’re law-abiding people then you know that that land belongs to Pacheedaht until a treaty has been settled.”
Although Ilkay has been in communication with Pacheedaht elected Chief Marvin McClurg, other band members claim they were not even aware the proposal was being carried out. “We’re talking about neocolonial bureaucracy that excludes Pacheedaht from the table,” says Jean-Paul Jones, another Pacheedaht elder. “We want to sit at the table. We want to participate in a democratic way. It’s private land, but it was stolen in a western system.”
At that same meeting, Ilkay said, “What I’m proposing is an environmentally sensitive resort, that will employ the locals. I did not plan this development to make money. I love this coast, too … We have very high environmental standards for our buildings, including rainwater capture.” Activist Zoe Blunt, a member of Forest Action Network, says her concerns aren’t limited to the Juan De Fuca proposal. “It’s very much in the public interest to protect the area in terms of carbon sequestration, animal habitat, (and) hedge against climate change.” But she adds there is a need for the CRD to clarify its regional growth strategy. “They should not be parachuting these resorts in to random places. They should have development permitted areas.” Rally organizers also expect a turnout of over 500 citizens to attend a public information meeting on March 3 at the Edward Milne School in Sooke. “We’re focusing on the trail development,” said Loewen. “If they (CRD) don’t listen to us this time, we’re going to continue to pressure them. And that’s a promise.”
The proposal has one more reading in front of the Juan De Fuca Land Use Committee before making its way to the CRD for a final decision. “This rally is just a start,” says Blunt. “It’s the beginning of a real movement to take back these lands for the public interest.” She adds that Ilkay’s development is “part of a whole pattern of privatizing the land and destroying the values that make Van Island incredibly special. People have had enough of that. We’ve been told this is going to be good for the economy. It’s not. It’s going to be good for a handful of developers.” M