The District of Sechelt says more than 500 people took part in the community engagement on the future direction of the Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF).
The three-month effort wrapped up with a final World Café event on Sept. 10, although a telephone survey was still ongoing at that point.
The district owns Sechelt Community Projects Inc., which manages SCCF’s day-to-day operations that have provided big dividends for the district. SCCF has reported a net income of $1,178,152 for the first two quarters of 2018.
SCCF logging has been a flashpoint for controversy several times since Sechelt was granted a community forest licence by the province in 2006, most recently last winter when logging was carried out in the area known as EW23 – the Chanterelle Forest.
Elphinstone Logging Focus went to court to try to get the harvesting stopped, and won a brief injunction.
Sechelt’s communications manager, Julie Rogers, told council on Sept. 19 that the response to the engagement, which began on July 1, was “huge” and included a lot of thoughtful comments. She also said the engagement has encouraged more citizens to get involved.
In a written report, Rogers said the common themes that emerged were the need for more community education and involvement, a desire to ensure better environmental protections, and a need to leverage opportunities for local economic development and job creation through operations and through the Legacy Fund.
An online survey found there was a high awareness of the existence of the Legacy Fund and strong agreement with the way the money had been used in the past.
The survey also showed a close split between the percentage of respondents who felt the SCCF operations are conducted very well, 31.47 per cent, and very poorly, 34.52 per cent.
“Some of the board members on the Community Forest were not really thrilled to pieces about us taking on this community engagement and, in fact, were opposed to it,” said Coun. Doug Wright. “The interesting change that has happened now is that in conversation with some of the board members, they’re now starting to see the value of what we did.”
Coun. Noel Muller was also pleased with the results of the engagement.
“I was happy that the community was heard on this. The values are important. The Community Forest is without a doubt one of, if not the number one asset in the District of Sechelt.”
Mayor Bruce Milne called it a “really interesting and positive engagement process,” and said he’s looking forward to seeing the results of the phone survey, which was being conducted by the same firm the district uses for its resident satisfaction surveys. He said that would be the final piece needed to give the board at SCCF a clear picture of the values the community wants to see applied to the management of the Community Forest.