West Coast Changes and Challenges



    Ucluelet Charts Dynamic Course for Island Community

    by Margo Malcolm & Jamie Gripich

    UCLUELET, BC, July 7 /CNW/ - On the west coast of Vancouver Island,
change is as constant as the tide. Over the last 25 years changes and
challenges have hit small west coast communities as relentless as the waves
beating its shore.  The District of Ucluelet has been meeting repeated
challenges, rolling with the curl and celebrating 'Life on the Edge'.
Ucluelet, recently granted official Resort Community status, is a town on the
move and planning further ahead than ever before.

    Forests for the Community

    The realignment of the logging industry in the 1990's had a big impact on
Ucluelet, whose roots are as a logging and fishing village. Hundreds of family
supporting jobs were lost, yet a large part of the local economy still relied
on the forest as a vital part of its economy, and will continue to in the
future.
    The community is working on a joint application with its neighbour, the
Toquaht First Nation, for a Community Forest designation from the provincial
Ministry of Forests. This designation will give the community and First Nation
land use control of local forests. It not only allows for harvesting of trees,
but also other long-term sustainable forest activities, including value-added
milling and possibly even small scale hydro-electric projects.
    "The Community Forest is a great way to go," says Dianne St. Jacques,
Ucluelet's Mayor. "We're pretty excited about the Community Forest and
partnering with the Toquaht First Nation. We're both looking for economic
benefits from the forest."
    In November 2007, the Toquaht, along with four other area bands,
finalized and accepted the historic Ma'nulth Treaty with the Provincial
Government. Ucluelet is in the process of meeting community to community with
the bands to discuss joint land use planning for the whole Ucluth Peninsula.
    "It's a whole new chapter in life for all of us out here," says St.
Jacques. "There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the process, but we look
forward to working through the unknowns with our neighbors."

    High Praise for Small Community

    This holistic approach to planning has gained favourable recognition for
Ucluelet outside of its borders. In February the district received the
Vancouver Island Economic Developer's Association (VIEDA) inaugural "Prestige
Award" award. That followed on the heels of Ucluelet being selected as one of
14 communities selected in the Community Action on Energy and Emissions (CAEE)
Program for their conservation practices. And this year the town also received
the Premier's Award for Innovation for their Bear Smart Program.
    In late 2006, the community also received high placements in the
International Awards for Livable Communities, including a Gold Certificate for
the Official Community Plan/Weyerhaeuser Development Agreement and a 2nd place
for the Most Livable Community below 20,000 population.

    Community Centre Hub

    Part of being a livable community is providing necessary amenities that
allow people to meet and participate in common interests. Ucluelet is building
a community centre with a little something for everyone. The centre will be a
community hub housing recreation rooms, a dance studio, a teen room, and a
theatre. It will also incorporate a library and a Child and Family Services
office, as well has having an adjacent day care centre.
    "To have the library at one end and the community hub with services at
the other end as anchor tenants, really will help with ongoing running of the
centre," says St. Jacques.

    LEEDing the Way

    The new Community Centre will be built following the Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design (LEED) gold standard. Ucluelet council has passed a
bylaw requiring all development to follow the LEED silver standard, but they
have committed to building this municipal structure at the gold standard. LEED
sets sustainable development principles and practices.
    Developers are also expected to contribute to the town. In Ucluelet, the
allowable land density is fairly low and so in return for higher density
approval, developers provide extra park land, cash or a combination like they
do in many communities. They are also required to build staff and affordable
housing for every 6.1 unit resort, condo or multi-family that is built.
    "In our neck of the woods, in order to get workers for these businesses,
we need to have affordable housing," says St. Jacques. "If there is no
housing, they won't get the workers they need to be successful."

    Building On Success

    New proposals on the horizon promise even more ways for Ucluelet to map
out its future.  Wave Energy to develop local electricity has been proposed;
the district is seeking designation as a Resort Community, and a newly minted
Tourism Ucluelet has been developed to further tourism interests to the area.
    When you're living life on the edge, it's better to be the rock than to
be the wave.





For further information:

For further information: Kristal Hemsworth, (250) 381-1660,
kristal@seasmokepr.com

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DISTRICT OF UCLUELET

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