March 2015

Punching above our weight

vancouver-olympics1

Originally posted March 25, 2015 written by Mayor Murray Skeels

I need your help. As Mayor of Bowen I’m part of the Mayors’ Council that is proposing you all pay more taxes. Did you feel that little twinge in your stomach when you read, “pay more taxes”. That was a gut level response; we all have them all the time. Usually they serve us well and our thought process stops there. But this is one of those occasions when you would be well served to put a bit more thought into the matter. Start with “how much”.

The new tax will be 0.5% of PST taxable items. Unless you love math, that isn’t much help.  Another way to put it is that your family will pay about 35 cents per day. Two thoughts probably just popped into your head. First came “What do I get for it?” But the second was “That’s not very much”.  If somebody convinces you that you won’t get anything you get to stop thinking again. Somehow 35 cents every day sounds like a lot of money. You don’t stop to consider that is less than the cost of one cup of coffee each week.

But getting back to what you get for your $2.45 each week; the short answer is that you won’t get stuck in a traffic jam every time you go to town. But the long answer is better if you stop to think about it. The $125 your family contributes every year will be matched by almost a million other families living in Metro Vancouver. Because we’re paying a sales tax everybody who travels into the area and businesses also pay. Between them they double the amount collected. This takes us to $250 million dollars every year to be spent on buses and another Seabus and subways and trains. There are also multipliers and spinoffs and all kinds of good things but I don’t want to bore you. And I want to get back to why I need your help.

You should now have received in the mail your ballot to vote in the plebiscite. I’m asking you to be sure you vote and mail it in. And I’m asking you to vote “Yes”. While everybody from the David Suzuki Foundation to the Board of Trade have presented innumerable reasons to vote yes I’d like you to consider it from a slightly different perspective.

Bowen is a very tiny part of Metro Vancouver. The number of votes we can contribute to the Yes side is tiny and aren’t likely to carry the day. However the votes are going to be announced by Municipality. We will be told what percentage of voters cast ballots and what percentages voted yes and no. The Mayors will be inhaling these numbers like air. And they will remember for a decade which Municipality cast the highest percentage of ballots and which had the highest percentage of Yes votes. If I happen to be the Mayor of that Municipality I’m going to be a very popular guy for a while. And that is exactly what Bowen needs.

Crippen Park provides many islanders with a very pleasant recreational amenity and the taxpayers of Metro Vancouver pay it for. Unfortunately the heritage cabins in the Orchard have been in need of restoration since the park opened 30 years ago. This is a major project and one we’d like to see completed in the next three years. To get the approval we’re going to need all the friends we can get.

Another priority for Municipal Council during this term is creating a transportation master plan. Implementing it will almost certainly require some help from Translink.  I’d really like them to have a warm and fuzzy feeling about us when I pitch the changes we’ll be proposing.

You can see where I’m going with this. We’re the mouse sleeping beside the elephant and we don’t get to do favours for the elephant very often. This is one of those rare opportunities when we get to be the kind of people whom others want to be friends with. And the bonus is that all we have to do to earn that respect is to do the right thing.

Just in case you still have to be convinced that spending $125 per year on transit is a good investment let me share some history with you. Between 2001 and when we hosted the Olympics in 2010 there was virtually no increase in the amount of traffic on Metro Vancouver roads. That’s because the growth in public transit exceeded the growth in population. Since the Olympics that has changed; the population is still growing but transit isn’t keeping up and traffic congestion is once again increasing. Without stable ongoing funding for buses and an added Seabus getting on or off of the  North Shore during rush hour is simply going to take longer and longer. Sixty percent of Bowen workers commute to the mainland so we shouldn’t think that congestion on the North Shore wouldn’t ultimately affect our quality of life.

So please do yourself and me a favour, vote “Yes” and get that ballot into the mail.

 – Mayor Murray Skeels

People, Canines, and Equines: Keeping the Outdoors Enjoyable & Safe

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Art by Jilly Watson

Originally published March 11, 2015 written by the BIHORA executive

With spring just around the corner, many of us will be looking forward to taking greater advantage of the beautiful trails that meander through the parks here on Bowen Island, including Crippen Regional Park, Quarry Park and Headwaters Park as well as some of the unfinished Trans-Island trails and other unofficial trails that criss-cross the island. For those who like a more strenuous hike, there are also the trails on Mount Gardner which can be accessed from a few different points at the base of the mountain.
During the summer months, thousands of tourists flock to Bowen Island reawakening it from winter’s slumber, and come to enjoy not only the island life, but also the many wonderful events that are held during the summer months.  Throughout the seasons, there are those who live and visit the island regularly who already enjoy the winding trails and wildlife that the forests have to offer, however with the influx of tourists and visitors to the island, trails become much busier than many people are used to.  The trails accommodate a broad spectrum of users and includes hikers, cyclists, runners, strolling families as well as dog walkers, horse riders and children with ponies.  Throughout Crippen Regional Park alone, there are 12.5km available for walkers and runners, 5km available for horse riders and cyclists.
So, with the wide variety of users on the trails and the surge of visitors to the island during the summer months, how do we keep our outdoor experiences, and those of others, enjoyable and safe?
Both Crippen Regional Park and Quarry Park have multi-use trail signs at the trail-heads.  Signs show that cyclists should yield to walkers and horses, and walkers yield to horses. Trailhead signs for Crippen Regional Park, Mount Gardner, Quarry Park and Headwaters Park also clearly indicate that all dogs should be leashed.
Unfortunately over the last couple of months there has been a significant rise in the number of unleashed and uncontrolled dogs chasing horses and, to a lesser extent, runners and cyclists.  So far, thankfully, no serious harm has come about because of these incidents. However, the chase drive in some dogs can be very strong and unless they are well trained and obedient to the recall command, chasing runners, cyclists and horses albeit fun for the dog, can have a potentially serious outcome.  In fact, herding breeds have a tendency to want to nip at the heels of things they chase including horses who in turn, kick out at whatever is chasing them which can result in a serious injury.
Horses are prey animals, with a natural survival instinct to flee from stressful situations. For the horse this could be a loud noise, a dog running toward them barking, or a cyclist unintentionally sneaking up from behind. Horses can be trained to deal with fearful situations and to depend on the rider for leadership, however, no amount of training can totally suppress a horse’s survival mechanism which may include striking out with its feet, or lashing out with its teeth when it feels under threat.  If a dog starts barking and running toward a horse, a horse will either try to run or defend itself by using the only things it has available, its feet or teeth, which can have potentially serious consequences for everyone involved. When a runner or a cyclist approaches a horse from behind, it is a good idea to say something to the rider, to make both horse and rider aware you are there. If taken by surprise, a horse can easily spook and may unseat its rider.
So, what can horse riders, children with ponies and dog walkers do to prevent a case of predator chasing prey?  First of all, dog walkers are asked to follow the trail signs, and keeping dogs on a leash where required. Dog walkers should also yield the right-of-way to equestrians, say hello so riders (and horses!) know you are there, and keep your dog close, quiet and under control as horses pass by.  To reduce what could be a frightening situation for a horse or pony, it is not advisable for people with dogs to hide behind trees or bushes, as this action is exactly what a predator would do when getting ready to attack a prey animal, and it is more likely to scare the equine than encourage it to pass quietly. Horse riders understand that not every dog has met a horse before, and are very happy to stop and wait for dog owners to get their dogs under control in order for the horse to pass safely.  We all want to enjoy our island’s beautiful forest trails, and we can all do this if we respect everyone around us and follow trail etiquette.
Over the summer there are many sporting events held on Bowen and on the mainland, and for those of us who like to participate in these, the on island trails bring out those who like to train for these, be it running, cycling or horse riding.  Bowen Island Horse Owners and Riders Association (BIHORA), in collaboration with any interested runners and cyclists, are hoping to hold a triathlon later in the year, with teams made up of a horse rider, runner and a cyclist.  We hope that those interested will take advantage of the wonderful trails on Bowen and the event will be as much fun as it will be competitive.

– BIHORA

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