Who decides if we have a trail? We do.
Who decides if we allow development or industry? We do.
Who decides to buy land for a park? We do.
As a community we have several guiding documents that help shape decisions that determine the future community we are creating. As an unincorporated area we have limited tools (when compared to an incorporated municipality), but we do have legislated and accepted documents such as the Official Community Plan, the Parks Master Plan and the ThinkShawnigan Village Plan. All are necessary and play different roles in helping drive daily decisions towards our desired future outcome.
The Official Community Plan (OCP) lays out goals, objectives and policies, including land designations, for the future land use and development (or preservation) of a given area. The OCP also helps guide the Regional District in developing and applying bylaws in the community. The OCP was created by community and approved by the community at the time of its adoption. This document usually lasts for around 20 years with only a few changes to it over time (despite rumours to the contrary the Board of the CVRD does not take amendments to any OCP lightly.) The OCP sets the stage and is basically the ‘over arching principles’ guiding the development in any given Area.
The Parks Master Plan sets the priorities for community parks and trails in and around Shawnigan Lake. This plan outlines key linkages and parkland opportunities within the area. This ensures our network of parks and trails are cohesive for residents and visitors into the future. This plan also enables the CVRD to act quickly when an opportunity arises, since sometimes it is hard to recognize an opportunity if you don't have a Plan. We have made great strides in Shawnigan over the past 9 years; our Masterplan was adopted in 2012 and much of it is complete.
The ThinkShawnigan Plan digs even deeper to create a more specific and detailed plan focused on a small but key area. The Plan encompasses the village and lakeshore from Government Wharf Park to Mason’s Beach and includes the large undeveloped space across from the community centre. Given this areas importance to the community, the ThinkShawnigan Plan has had more community input than any other community engagement to date. The extensive consultation process allowed the community to directly influence how we want the village core to develop over the next 10-20 years.
Many exciting changes have happened in the ThinkShawnigan zone recently. For example, the Community Centre upgraded their signage, allowing information to be shared more quickly and efficiently. This new sign is also safer for migrating birds as it is smaller and not as bright as the previous backlit board. There was also a major land acquisition between Dougan Park (SLCC) and Mason’s Beach. This new 2 acre parcel was originally zoned commercial and could have been anything from a mechanic’s shop to a boutique hotel, but now it belongs to the community and we can taylor this new park over time to best fit the communities requirements. I am grateful to the CVRD and the Area B Parks Commission for their support in helping our community preserve such a valuable waterfront green space.
This is an exciting time for the community of Shawnigan as we move forward on a number of key aspects of these various plans that will shape the future of our community. We have just taken another massive step towards creating a cohesive green space along the northeast shore of the Lake that will eventually have an accessible walking trail that stretches all the way from Mason’s Beach to Old Mill Park (and on the far side of Old Mill Park, there is another trail that continues all the way to the top of Old Baldy.) This wonderful network of waterfront parks and trails will provide lake access and recreation opportunities for everyone to enjoy now and into the future. Love it, Share it, Protect it!
Do you ever wonder who gets to decide how the community develops? Have you ever wondered how we acquire more parkland? Or have you ever asked yourself “how do we make sure the community grows in the direction we want to go?” If you have ever asked yourself anything like this, the answer is we follow a “pattern.” In Shawnigan Lake we have several documents that create the template/pattern for where we want to go. These documents include, among others, the Official Community Plan, The Parks Master Plan and the ThinkShawnigan Plan. All of these documents focus on a vision of the communities future and help chart the path to get there. These plans are important for direction, guidance and funding. Furthermore, all of these documents were developed by community for community. Where the community is on the path and even the end goals themselves may not always be apparent because parts of the plan have to be implemented when the opportunity presents itself. Just like a quilt, it’s hard to see the big picture until the blocks are sewn together.
The Shawnigan Community has just completed another “block of the quilt.” Just recently Shawnigan Lake purchased a 2 acre piece of land that connects Mason’s Beach to the Community Centre. This completes the “patchwork” of community parks from Mason’s all the way through to Government Wharf Beach. This parcel was zoned commercial and could have been anything from a mechanic’s shop to a boutique hotel. Now it belongs to the community. It provides views of the lake, parking for the trailhead/beach and will also help alleviate some of the congestion at Government Wharf Park and Heald Rd. As such, plans include creating a safer passage from this new greenspace to Mason’s Beach and the Rail with Trail. This is a wonderful new addition to Shawnigan’s public waterfront access that we can taylor over time to best fit the communities requirements.
This new park helps address a number of challenges that were identified through the ThinkShawnigan process; not enough parking at Government Wharf Park and the village, limited views of the lake and limited access to the lake for enjoyment (walking, swimming, kayaking). Eventually the accessible walking trail, as stated in the Parks Master Plan, will go all the way from Mason’s Beach to Old Mill Park (and on the far side of Old Mill Park, there is a trail that continues to the top of Old Baldy.) I am grateful to the CVRD and the Area B Parks Commission for their support in obtaining the funds so that our community could preserve such a valuable waterfront green space for future generations to enjoy.
We’ve all heard the expression, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Taxes may seem simple and straightforward, but as far as Area B taxes go, they are commonly misunderstood. The Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) is a complex government structure that arguably does not serve our local needs as well as it could, but I will leave that discussion for another day. I will cover the basics and should you wish more information, I would suggest the CVRD website be your next stop. Your “property taxes” are actually made up of multiple taxes, of which, the Area Directors can only influence (need a majority) the CVRD line item. The other taxes such as Fire Protection, Hospital, Education, Parcel, and Rural Tax are set out and managed by other jurisdictions.
The CVRD provides mandated and community requested services. If you have never been a developer or built a house you may not know this, but the CVRD has many departments including: planning, building inspection, legislative services (create bylaws, runs transparent meetings, etc), engineering services (approves and manages water-systems), finance, emergency services (responsible for 911 towers and response) and Environmental services (creating the plans for the Province, flood plain mapping, water quality testing, water quantity testing, etc.) just to name a few. Many of these services are paid for by everyone in the region. Sub-regional services such as Kerry Park Recreation and South Cowichan Liquid Waste Management are paid for by the Areas that are covered by the services in question. Local services such as Community Parks and the Community Centre are entirely payed for by Area B. Furthermore, you are only taxed for a service if you receive it (e.g. if you are connected to the Beach Estates Sewer.) Many of the regional services we may not actually notice locally, but they are mandated by the Province and must be part of our planning and legislation.
Assessments of a properties value are made by BC Assessment (which is managed provincially) every year and are based on sales in the local area. In Shawnigan Lake (Area B), assessments are generally much higher than anywhere else in the CVRD because we are closer to Victoria (among other things.) Since the average assessed value is higher, we do end up paying a higher percentage for a given service if it is regional or subregional. This is because the allocation of taxes is based on assessed value and are not “flat-rate” (e.g. by population.) Despite this, we still only have one vote at the table (that’s me).
Something to note, Area B is not formed by natural boundaries, it was drawn by someone for the Province in the 60’s. Area B includes parts of Cobblehill and Cowichan Station on the other side of the Koksilah River. This is unfortunate because sometimes they are forced to pay for a local service that is geographically inconvenient for them to use (e.g. the Shawnigan Community Centre).
On your property taxes you will also see a separate tax called Rural Tax, which is charged to unincorporated areas. The same rate is charged throughout the Province (with the exception of the Peace River Regional District) to all properties in a given property class. This means exactly what you think it means; every residential property in an unincorporated area pays this tax based on that individual properties assessed value, which means that if the assessed value is 3 times the value of a similar property in say northern BC, then that property pays 3 times the taxes. This Rural Tax is a general tax that goes into the Province’s general revenue. The Province determines how much revenue they need to raise for the year and sets the provincial rate in order to raise that amount of revenue. Because it goes into general revenue, it is impossible to say exactly how it will be allocated, but it does cover things like secondary roads and the RCMP.
This year the CVRD tax (budget) increase for Area B will come in around 2.5%. This increase is mostly due to the Library Budget (which I opposed) and the Regional Parkland Acquisition Fund. I strive to find a balance between social, economic and environmental concerns when voting for or against specific budget items. The Regional Parkland Acquisition Fund is a regional function (meaning everyone pays for it) and it is designed to help save for future land acquisitions. If an important property came along, these funds would be available to help the CVRD acquire it. I have taken the perspective that we need to be able to react quickly when there is an opportunity preserve important ecological and recreational spaces for the future.
As always I available for a conversation, Sierra Acton.
Love it! Share it! Protect it!
Parks are One of our Biggest Assets
Now more than ever I value the parks and trails of our whole region. I don’t think I’m alone in this sentiment as park usage has increased considerably in the past year. The Cowichan Valley Regional District has recorded record numbers of park users since the beginning of the pandemic.
The research is also clear about the benefits of active living and exercising outside. Larger parks give people the opportunity to go for a stroll, jog or cycle. Not only does exercising outside lower our chances of contracting chronic diseases (such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory problems), but also, being in nature offers up mental health benefits and stress reduction. If I set out to the park after a day of online meetings, I can feel the tension leaving my body and my mind feels clearer.
In Shawnigan Lake we especially value our lake views and access to the water. Our newest trail addition goes from Mason’s Beach along the tracks all the way to the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre. This trail gives people a safer route away from the road with a beautiful view of the lake. Choose it for your next stroll and enjoy both the lake and our village.
This year marks the final payment on Old Baldy Mountain. This Park was purchased in 2016 with short term borrowing and paid off with local tax dollars. I will be working closely with the Parks Commission to look at next steps for this park among others. Please connect if you have an interest in volunteering on one of Area B’s advisory boards such as the Parks Commission.
I am so grateful to live in such a beautiful rural setting. Just looking out at the trees brings me a sense of calmness that I don’t think I would have if I lived in the city. With the new COVID restrictions and the inability to socialize, I encourage you to explore our parks and maybe even find a new favourite. The CVRD website has information about all it’s parks at https://www.cvrd.ca/146/Community-Parks
As always please connect. Sierra.Acton@cvrd.bc.ca 250-715-6763
Planning for a Strong Tomorrow
by Sierra Acton CVRD Director Area
On the evening of February 25th the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre was standing room only as the implementation of the ThinkShawnigan Village Plan was passed to community by Micheal Von Hausen Inc. The community was all set to host a hands on workshop to start implementing the plan when COVID suddenly became a reality. The workshop was cancelled. Since then some preliminary steps have been taken: there have been some exciting conversations with business stakeholders in the Village on how we can begin to bring to life some of the aesthetic suggestions that were made and the Ministry of Transportation (MOTI) has reviewed the plan as it relates to traffic patterns through the Village and is checking their "toolbox" to see what they can do to support the vision. Now I am reaching out to see how the community sees itself working through this plan? See the plan: https://www.cvrd.bc.ca/DocumentCenter/View/96504/Shawnigan-Lake-Village-Plan-Jan-2020
COVID has required all our organizations and businesses to be creative and innovate. Historically, we have enjoyed the kick-off to summer with the Canada Day Parade and events at Elsie Miles park. Because of COVID, the Shawnigan Lake Community Association planned a virtual scavenger hunt for the families in our community instead and it was a HUGE success. We also recognized that now more than ever we must support our local businesses. In response the Shawnigan Residents Association developed a community directory of ALL Local Businesses including home-based. This was implemented quickly with the support of all the CVRD South Cowichan Area Directors. If you have a business to promote contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are a local in South Cowichan you can find this directory at www.theSRA.ca/directory
Now that the sun is shining, everyone wants to enjoy the lake. In many cases, the most convenient access point is one of the many road ends around the lake. There are always mixed feelings about making a road end into a public park; increased use can create parking issues, litter and noise complaints to name a few of the challenges. The CVRD has a mandate for regional issues that benefit the community at large and in many cases, neighbourhoods want access, but not necessarily a CVRD ‘promoted’ public park. If you are passionate about increasing public access in your neighbourhood, I want to help make that vision a reality. Please step forward and let me know. This issue has been talked about for many years because it’s not an easy one to solve, but a determined community can accomplish a lot. For more information please check out one of my recent posts on the issue; http://www.iloveshawnigan.com/blog/archives/02-2020
During these unprecedented times it is often challenging to deal with the unknown, but I am confident that our small, innovative and collaborative community can come together to support each other and to support our local businesses.
Although I am on Zoom more often than not, my phone still works, please reach out. Have a great Summer, Sierra Acton, (250)-715-6763 Sierra.Acton@cvrd.bc.ca
I don’t know about you, but I am finding that the upheaval to our lives and the corresponding uncertainty is causing many mixed emotions for me through the day. I feel for the families who have lost their jobs and all the kids who are stuck at home not understanding why they can’t play with their friends. I am disappointed that so many great community initiatives have been postponed. I am also very concerned for our business community. Our village was finally full (with many businesses looking to expand or move in), but now the reality is that some may close and some may not return when we are “back to normal” (a great reason to support local as much as you can). Even with all of these concerns, here in Shawnigan a few things are shining through: Love, Gratitude and Hope.
Right after we got the news that non-essential services were to close the community wanted to help. Many in the community were very concerned that schools were not going back and concerned some of the supports provided by school would also be cancelled. Many community members were reaching out wanting to give and wanting to know where there was a need. The decision was made and the Hearts lawnsign was created to show our community spirit and cheer on the efforts of our frontline workers, while raising funds to support food programs in the valley: Nourish Cowichan and the foodbank to be specific. The Shawnigan Residents Association picked up, pitched in and made it happen overnight. The first weekend we exceeded our weekend goal of $5,000 and we were quickly moving towards our campaign goal of $20,000. It ended as quickly as it started and after 4 weeks it was over. Thanks to the SRA, many volunteers and the generosity of so many the campaign was a huge success.
Here’s what the community had to say;
Thank you Shawnigan Lake. This will definitely bolster the spirit of the troops. Shawnigan is truly a wonderful community that we are proud to serve.
- Sargent Tim Desaulniers, RCMP Detachment
The Hearts campaign was beautiful and brilliant. I heard many nurses and doctors comment while I was in the hospital about their appreciation, and the fact that donations were going to Nourish made it even more special. Personally I love the message so much I might leave my heart at the end of my driveway forever.
- Deana Robertson, Physician and Chair of Nourish Cowichan
It was a pleasure to help and especially heart-warming to be welcomed at so many homes by appreciative people (from a distance of course).
- Volunteer sign installer
Thank you to all who helped out, and the delivery folks for doing such a great job, a huge act of kindness that you let many share in. 5 stars for all of you!
- R. Cuthbert, Resident
During these unprecedented times it is challenging to deal with the unknown. I hope you are safe and with your loved ones. If I can offer a message of wellbeing: Now, more than ever, it is important to get outside and enjoy our many parks and trails. To come together to support each other and to support our local businesses.
Although I am on Zoom more often than not, my phone still works, please reach out. As our lawn signs declared, I too wish love to the whole community, gratitude to the frontline workers and hope to all for our future as a world and a community.
And the Community Came Together as the People Stayed Apart
By Area B CVRD Director Sierra Acton
This is a challenging time globally as well as for our communities. In the midst of the escalating impacts of COVID-19 on our communities around the Valley we have all come together to help families, friends and neighbours. I am touched by the many acts of kindness and stories of community spirit being shared in South Cowichan.
In Shawnigan we have learned how to mobilize community quickly and efficiently even in the face of challenging new times like this. The Starfish Program and Nourish Cowichan have partnered with School District 79 to deliver food to families who depended on the lunch programs and food banks. This partnership is working to deliver much needed support with respect and dignity while keeping everyone safe through proper social distancing protocols. The Shawnigan Residents Association (SRA) and iloveshanwigan.com have come together quickly to help raise funds to support this effort. The fundraiser is centred around the Heart lawn sign which is available via contribution at www.thesra.ca/hearts. The only expense is the lawn sign itself, 100% of the proceeds will go to these local charities and the signs are being delivered and installed by community volunteers practicing social distancing. Don’t delay; this campaign will close shortly. Email email@example.com if you would like to volunteer installing signs (completely on your own).
By the time you read this, the fundraiser will be well under way. The lawn sign represents love to the whole community, gratitude to the frontline workers and hope to all for our future as a world and a community. The first weekend we exceeded our weekend goal of $5,000 and we are on our way to the total campaign goal of $20,000. But we still need your help! Please consider purchasing a sign for your lawn or a location that will be highly visible. Some people have chosen to donate theirs to local businesses or essential services stations. We realize these uncertain times are hard for everyone and thank you in advance for your generosity.
I would like to thank all the businesses and citizens who have made sacrifices to shut down and stay home to keep our community safe and healthy. Together we will get through this and come out of it stronger. I have 3 pieces of advice; go out in Nature everyday, try to do something kind everyday and connect with your friends and neighbours (virtually of course). I am here should you have any questions or concerns. Together we have proven our strength, compassion and community spirit. We are in This Together!
(250) 715-6763 call/text
The Time is NOW to ThinkShawnigan
by Sierra Acton Area B CVRD Director
On the evening of February 25th the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre was standing room only as the implementation of the ThinkShawnigan Village Plan was passed to community by Micheal Von Hausen Inc. A total of nine public and stakeholder engagement opportunities helped shape this plan over the past nine months. Residents, visitors, and businesses have been contributing ideas and suggestions from as early as Doug Griffiths’ presentation in April 2019. This collaboration continued through Canada Day, The Gathering and the Community Design Charrette from October 17th to 19th. Supplemental site and policy analysis brought further local details to the Think Shawnigan Plan. Over time the plan has evolved into six actions (Activity Nodes) and ten strategies. This Plan is about action and it starts now. From the October preliminary unveiling it was clear that the Four Corners design may be an exciting project to start with. To that end, we are having a workshop on Saturday March 28th at 9am. At our first Take Action Workshop we will work together to plan, delegate and strategize on how to implement the plan to improve Four Corners NOW.
Think Shawnigan Take Action Workshop
Where: Shawnigan Lake Community Centre
When: Saturday March 28th 9am-noon (snacks provided)
What: Bring your positive and can do attitude!
The Think Shawnigan Plan provides priority, choice, and necessary details for implementation now and in the future. It includes six Activity Nodes:
1. Village Core (Old Village)
2. Community and Cultural Centre
3. Viewpoint at Lakefront
4. Government Wharf Beach
5. Shawnigan Station and Lakefront (land north of existing Village area)
6. Masons Beach
1. Village Core streetscape improvements
2. Village and Community Centre improvements
3. Village connection to lakefront
4. Public waterfront and activities
5. Village mix of uses and innovative businesses
6. Design guide and building/site Improvements
7. Trails connections and completion
8. Housing infill
9. Shawnigan Station (land north of existing Village area)
This Plan links the six activity nodes by a comprehensive trail network to create a cohesive and concentrated Village area, while conserving the natural rural setting. The strategies provide necessary details for implementation and are based on community input. These strategies will enrich and improve the Shawnigan Lake community while retaining its unique character and qualities - keeping the essence of Shawnigan. In addition to this Plan, the separate Shawnigan Lake Village Design Guide gives detailed direction to future development and improvements in the Village Plan area.
See more at;
This is not a CVRD plan, this is a Community Plan and will require community groups, stakeholders and community volunteers to make it happen and come together. Love it, Share it, Protect it!
Road ends and Public Lake Access
by: Area B Director Sierra Acton
On November 28th I hosted a Director’s Meeting that highlighted the many jurisdictions surrounding road ends and lake access. It was well attended, with almost 100 people filling the meeting space. There were representatives from CVRD Parks, CVRD Bylaw Enforcement, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), RCMP and Conservation. Although MOTI clearly stated that road ends are public right of ways and the public has a right to use them, it appears that no one wants to take full responsibility for enforcing the rules that surround their use. The Ministry owns the road ends, but to date, has not taken action to address the blocking of road ends through fences, construction etc. However, going forward the MOTI has committed to helping the community with a few key offenders. The CVRD is limited to enforcing zoning; there is a W4 zone that allows for public use of a road end, but prohibits the construction of private docks. Conservation prohibits disruption of the riparian area and any removal of vegetation without proper permits. Finally, the RCMP is only a phone call away if a disagreement about the use of a road end requires police intervention.
Currently the CVRD does manage 3 Parks/Beaches, Memory Island and 4 Road ends:
In 2014 the CVRD was all set to manage two new road ends, but the CVRD and the Director at the time decided not to pursue them due to disagreements in the neighbourhoods in question. In any given neighbourhood there are always mixed feelings about making a road end into a public park. Increase use can create parking issues, litter and noise complaints to name a few of the challenges. The CVRD has a mandate for regional issues that benefit the community at large and in many cases, neighbourhoods want access, but not necessarily a CVRD ‘promoted’ public park. If you are passionate about increasing public access to the lake, I want to help make that vision a reality. Please step forward and let me know. This issue has been talked about for many years because it’s not an easy one to solve, but a determined community can accomplish a lot.
If you have a road end issue I would suggest the following:
There are over 70 public right of ways on Shawnigan Lake. However, not all road ends are accessible, since some may be too steep and some are better left as wildlife corridors. Road end maps are available online or at the Shawnigan Lake Museum for a small fee. There are many road ends that people currently enjoy, so be a great neighbour and share your favourite one in the community. My top 3 are Tranent/Kews Rd, Munsie Rd and Millicent Rd.
As always I’m available in person, by phone or email. LOVE IT, SHARE IT, PROTECT IT!
-Year in Review and what’s to come!
by Sierra Acton CVRD Area B Director
I am big on setting goals, but I also like to celebrate what has been accomplished before setting the intentions for the coming year. Here are some highlights from this year;
In 2020 we can expect;
On a personal note, I was just recently appointed Chair of Community Services at the CVRD and I am looking forward to the new opportunities and experiences that this position will bring.
I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday. As always, I am available. Let’s connect.
LOVE IT, SHARE IT, PROTECT IT!