COLUMN: Saving natural spaces key to future

NANAIMO: The slow destruction of natural spaces in the community is something that is happening now.

It was a beautiful fall evening in Nanaimo to take a stroll at Piper’s Lagoon Park.

I walked along the path, climbed over the rock barrier to the rest of the trail and scrambled over some shoreline outcroppings to sit by the water.

Taking off my shoes I slung my legs over the side of the rock and dangled them into the water. It was cool to the touch, succumbing to the chill of the season. Nearby seagulls called to each other on the rocks. Waves crashed on my feet and ankles moving with the ebb and flow of the dusk tide.

The fall leaves of orange and red swelled with a puff of wind on a rocky hill in the distance. And soon a boat made its way out to sea.

The beauty made me think of the people who had the foresight to protect the park land and ensure it was there for future generations to enjoy. The park is a sanctuary of nature in a growing city with pressure to develop land.

There are many spaces in the city groups and individuals are fighting to protect. Pressure from development is always on the horizon. That pressure is taking pieces of land people use as sanctuaries and turning them into concrete or wooden structures of commerce or homes for residents.

Growth is good in many aspects for the city. It’s an important component of an evolving city’s economy. But perhaps sustainable growth is an important factor in the equation.

Nanaimo is a city that stretches out. It’s not one with a lot of growth upward.

That outward growth is taking forested land with it.

The Mid Island Sustainability Stewardship Initiative is pushing for more protection. The organization’s initiative of branding Nanaimo and the surrounding area as a Green Gateway is a great idea. It’s a simple phrase and easy to remember. It could be something to tie into the tourism marketing for the region.

The province is being marketed as Super Natural B.C. It’s a place where people can explore all the wonders of the forests, lakes, mountains and oceans. The commercials are filled with leaping whales, and backpackers reaching the top of a mountain to look out onto an amazing vista of nature.

So why can’t Nanaimo and the mid-Island region market itself as the Green Gateway to Vancouver Island? It’s a start to letting people know how important these green spaces are to the community. Projects to connect trails and expand trails are already underway.

Protecting these spaces is an important part of the proposal. Talking to different groups and municipal leaders, I have heard people talk about the difficulties of getting protection in some zones, especially if they cross over many government jurisdictions. People are waiting to see the outcome of some things already underway. But, how long will we be waiting?

The slow destruction of natural spaces in the community is something that is happening now.

Perhaps it’s so slow it’s hard to realize how much has been lost. Down the road about 10 years, as we look back at a community, will we ask ourselves what happened to that amazing field that was behind our homes?

It may be easier to see the extent of destruction when it is a large piece of property being developed all at once. Then the visual impact is immediately. But, perhaps, if it is done one hectare at a time our minds don’t comprehend the amount of destruction happening.

The incremental destruction of these natural spaces means less space available for the future. Some people I’ve talked to said they’re going to wait and see, or that these spaces can be protected somewhere further down the road in the future.

But what happens if we wait too long? What happens if the waiting period means that pieces of these potential nature sanctuaries are slowly whittled away?