The SD69 school board recently met with Qualicum Beach council. (File photo)

School board, Qualicum Beach council talk climate change

Two organizations also discuss Ballenas track, safe routes to school

Climate change, the ongoing saga of the running track at Ballenas Secondary and safe routes to school were among the key topics at a recent meeting between the Qualicum Beach school district and town council.

The conversation kicked off with climate change — something the district has talked about a lot in recent months. The district recently formed a climate action committee, after voting against banning out of province field trips. The district said it’s the council’s job to send the right message to youth about climate change and action. The board brought up its decision to declare a climate emergency in the fall.

“It’s going to affect how we look at our strategic plan,” said trustee Barry Kurland.

Julie Austin, vice-chairperson for the district, said some council decisions don’t send the right message to youth. She brought up Timber Fest, a newly approved forestry themed event in Qualicum Beach, which she said encourages logging and clear-cut logging.

“We’re promoting a dying industry,” she said.

Coun. Adam Walker did previously bring forward a motion for council to declare a climate emergency, but it was defeated.

“I made that motion and I would love to have it come back if the mayor would like to bring it back,” said Walker.

In response to the council not declaring a climate emergency, Coun. Scott Harrison said it begs the question of what emergency to declare first. In his eyes, a healthcare emergency, a poverty emergency and a housing emergency would all need to be declared as well, since they are all equally important.

“That would be good,” said trustee Kurland.

Kurland said there’s what they can do as a board, and the other part is encouraging people to do certain actions. He said council should be encouraging people to drive less, drive clean, ditch plastics, go solar and rethink their food supply.

Coun. Teunis Westbroek brought up the town’s transit efforts and a free shuttle that used to run through Qualicum Beach that he said no one used.

“I don’t know what else we can do,” he said. “We’re doing what we can.”

READ MORE: Qualicum school district board declares a climate emergency

READ MORE: Qualicum school district commits $200K toward Ballenas track upgrade

Conversation then moved to the Ballenas track, a project many years in the making. The district committed to giving $200,000 to the project in August 2019, which Harrison said is a lot of money from the board.

“This is a huge commitment from the school district,” said Harrison.

Both the trustees and councillors talked about the benefits of the track. Grants, community fundraising and municipal money are all part of how the steering committee for the track hopes to raise the needed $2 million.

“We are hoping to have shovels in the ground next spring,” said trustee Elaine Young.

Mayor Brian Wiese seemed supportive of the project.

“I think it’s an interesting conversation, I think we should keep moving forward,” he said.

The two bodies also spoke about the Arbutus Street trail through Qualicum Beach Elementary School.

No decisions or motions were made since the meeting was a discussion, not a school board or council meeting.

The hour-long meeting ended with Austin saying that transportation discussions are increasingly important, for both safety and climate change reasons.

“I just want to thank the school trustees for making this happen,” said Coun. Walker, who said he hopes “that we can make this a regular thing.”

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