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Here’s how we all made Salt Spring a little better in 2021

We hope you’re staying safe in 2022…which at this point sure looks a lot like 2021 did. But while some things sadly haven’t changed, many things on Salt Spring did. Thanks to the work of many organizations and passionate individuals like you, our community has made progress over the past year on some issues critical to the health and well being of our special place.

Here are some highlights from Salt Spring Solutions’ work in 2021. Want to support our big plans for 2022 and beyond? For the first time ever we are asking for financial support. Please click here to donate to support more impact like this.

 1. Helping local governments start to fix the Salish Sea Trail

During the hot summer of 2020 we identified an opportunity to fix an issue that’s been frustrating islanders for a generation – making the island safe for cycling, while also catalyzing fixes to our crumbling and dangerous main road.

The “Finish the Salish Sea Trail” campaign quickly became a high profile community cause, aligning the work of existing bicycle groups  and motivating almost 1,700 people to sign the petition, that’s almost 15% of our island population.

Unfortunately the campaign continued to hit procedural roadblocks because Salt Spring has no local government responsible for taking the lead on solving big problems. So we took off our advocacy hats and put on our convener ones, and coordinated an inter-agency working group to bring the various government bodies together, help them draw up plans, and support their efforts to raise the funds from more senior levels of government.

Our working group included MLA Adam Olsen, MP Elizabeth May, Capital Regional District Director, Transportation Commission Chair, select staff from the CRD, Islands Trust and MOTI, and Island Pathways, amongst others, who have committed to working together long term and across silos to bring this safe cycling route to life. We also created a storytelling brochure for the general public and potential government funders.

Stay tuned for more ways regular people can make a difference on this critical issue in 2022.

2. Finally! Trust action on workforce housing 

Driftwood GI Media

In 2019 we presented recommendations that would concretely help the Islands Trust respond to the housing crisis that was driving our workforce, families and low-income seniors to leave their Salt Spring home. Although the recommendations were not passed, the Trust’s Housing Action Program Task Force was born specifically to explore housing solutions.

This November, the Islands Trust passed the first round of recommendations put forward by the Housing Task Force, which includes:
1) Stop bylaw enforcement on cabins, hotels, and guest houses providing long-term residency, unless there are specific health and safety, sewage, or water concerns.

2) Expedite the building of affordable housing by supporting applications for this type of housing.

3) Draft a bylaw amendment to allow suites and accessory dwelling units – cottages, garages, and we presume, tiny homes island-wide.

This is a huge win that has the potential to really start to make a dent in the crisis that is tearing the heart out of our community.
We are so grateful for all of you who sent emails, wrote letters and articles for the Driftwood, shared your stories, and more. Read more about this big win on workforce housing here.

3. Protecting Mt Maxwell for nature and people 

Eighty acres of forested land on iconic Hwumet’utsum/Mount Maxwell is zoned for Forestry and currently at risk of being logged, subdivided and developed.

A multi-stakeholder campaign was created and led by Salt Spring Solutions to protect this forest for nature and recreational use. Together with many partners and volunteers we supported visioning, organizing and fundraising to acquire this land as a public park, while exploring opportunities for density transfer, reconciliation initiatives, and climate adaptation research and recreation.

As a demonstration project, this effort is intended to protect the land while uniting local groups who have traditionally not worked together — conservationists, mountain bikers and housing advocates, in this case— around an integrated shared vision.

We hope the excitement generated by this work will open the door to further collaborations that protect both nature and community.

4. #GoodbyeSaltSpring, and the power of stories 

Jen MacLellan / Driftwood GI Media

In July, we launched the #GoodbyeSaltspring project that included bi-weekly stories in the Driftwood, and a roving art display of powerful quotes and stories from Salt Springers struggling to stay in the community they love.

We heard from over 60 people in only two months of outreach!

These stories were presented at Islands Trust meetings, shared at the Climate Rally, and thanks to supportive island businesses like Mouats, Salt Spring Coffee, and Rock Salt have reached hundreds of islanders in person via the quilt-like display of stories and quotes. In October, we were even asked to share about the campaign on CBC Radio Victoria, which you can listen to here.

We’ve heard from many different sources that these stories have finally opened the eyes of the wider Salt Spring community about the stakes of continuing to ignore our workforce housing crisis.

5. Short documentary highlighting Salt Spring possibilities   

In early 2021 we debuted our new short film, Taking a Stand in the Salish Sea. This 26-minute film was designed to invite new ways of imagining what is possible on our island in the midst of the ongoing crises and disruptions of our time.

Working with the Salt Spring Community Alliance, we helped facilitate a dozen intimate zoom screenings, followed by discussions in small groups on the challenges the island is facing. With a goal to ignite a collective fire to work together to create the solutions our community needs to become more equal, more just, more sustainable the film on vimeo has accumulated 1.4 thousand views.

You can watch the film here.

Salt Spring is an amazing community that has much to be proud of, and much to do to live up to our ideals as a resilient, sustainable, and just community. We are honoured to be able to live here among so many beautiful people, trees, and creatures.

We’ll be in touch soon about our big plans for 2022. If you’re in a position to do so, please consider making a donation to support our work.

All the best for a better 2022.

Aina, Elizabeth, Darlene, Jason, and Mairi from Salt Spring Solutions

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