Engaging the Community in the Salt Spring Island OCP Visions

This is a great time to be on Salt Spring.  Our primary federal political parties are competing to out green each other, BC is going to try to follow the Schwarzenegger mandate for the reduction in greenhouse emissions, and here, some of our most talented citizens are engaged with the Official Community Plan (OCP) review process.  How relevant and how timely.
I was very fortunate to participate in the initial reporting of the six OCP teams and was most impressed with the key directions each team presented.  It was obvious that considerable thought and attention was made to gather, analyze, distill, and clearly articulate the visions from each team.  Such focused and devoted volunteers should be congratulated for their efforts and the Trust should be congratulated for creating an environment and process to critically examine our present state, document the teams directions and subsequently attempt to create a process to achieve those directions.

One of the key elements proposed by Sebastian Moffat in his recent presentation on January 25 on the topic of Sustainable Cities was the importance of creating specific goals followed by well defined implementation plans.  If I understood Mr. Moffat correctly, the plan crystallizes thought, establishes direction and creates a momentum amongst the constituent stakeholders.  From my prior work life experience in IT management, without a plan with clearly stated and precise objectives and goals, and delivery dates, you enter the dark path of “endless circular discussions”, “analysis paralysis”, “wheel reinventing” and frustration.  In the case of sustainable cities, the implementation plan contains reasonably specific long range strategic visions with as many parameters as possible, and a time frame for achieving those visions.  For a large metropolitan city such as Vancouver, due to the monumental complexity, a realistic time frame for implementation and realization of significant benefits would be in the order of 100 years.  The magnitude of the 100 year visions would necessitate the initiation and implementation of a myriad of many smaller plans, as well as legislative and policy changes.  These support thousands of strategic “tiny steps” which incrementally and progressively work towards larger milestones and eventually the achievement of the long term goals.

Let us take the city example and apply it to a local example of just one long term known objectives for this island - pedestrian and bike pathways.  This vision is a great one to comment on as it may be justified from many perspectives including safety, health and fitness, protection of the environment and enhanced green spaces.  I’m fairly confident that most, if not all local residents are supportive of bike paths.  A vision or mission statement could read “the creation of a network of pedestrian and bike pathways (pathways) throughout the island.”  However, the pathway concept has been around for a long time and seems to be one of those seemingly overwhelming projects that falls apart due to the magnitude and complexity of the goal.  To put it another way, having a vision is easy; achieving that vision can be difficult.

So a plan is created.  The purpose of the plan is to work towards the visions by setting specific or tactical goals and directions, and establishing specific delivery dates and milestones.    For our example of the pathways, the plan may include a set of sub-projects such as a goal of 20 years to achieve 90% saturation of pathways attached to roads that exist at that time.  It might also include the Ganges-Vesuvius pathway at year three, Ganges-Fernwood at year four (easier goal as the Ganges-Central link was completed by year three as part of the Ganges-Vesuvius pathway), and Ganges to Fulford at year five.  The important factor is that the plan provides a precise direction and documented milestone dates.  (Since that is where we are going, lets stop talking about it and do it).  In addition, the plan would initiate or promote:

It is my belief that similar to the projects of the order of magnitude of sustainable cities, the implementation of the visions resulting from the OCP review process will require the subsequent formation of plans with well defined goals, specific due dates, milestone events and funding requirements.  We are now approaching an opportunistic period of time when we can begin to produce a set of specific implementation strategy documents that will serve us for many years to come and serve as the impetus to complete the visions that the OCP groups are providing.  Such documents will provide the commitment that “we mean business” and encourage the support and participation as required of the entire community.    

I would like to end with a final thought.  Salt Spring has much to celebrate due to its past successes.  Seemingly overwhelming projects including the Texada challenge, the creation of a local currency and the reintroduction of salmon in Duck creek to name a few, were projects that defined a goal, and with the support of the community, were able to “muster the troops” and achieve the desired results.  I am optimistic we have the talent and gumption to enter a period of constant and ongoing improvement to this wonderful island we live on.