URBAN DESIGN & THE PACKAGE OF ECOLOGICAL SERVICES: “The ‘Comox story’ is indeed a blueprint for what the phrase hard work of hope means in practice,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability, when he met with Comox Town Council to present the 8th in the Watershed Case Profile Series (September 2019)

Note to Reader:

Published by the Partnership for Water Sustainability, the Watershed Case Profile Series is unique. The series showcases and celebrates successes and long-term ‘good work’ in the local government setting in British Columbia. The Partnership’s spotlight is on champions in communities which are breaking new ground and establishing replicable precedents.

Storylines touch lightly on technical matters, yet are grounded in a technical foundation. The objective in ‘telling a story’ is to engage, inform and educate multiple audiences – whether elected, administrative, technical or stewardship. Stories in the series are presented in a magazine style to make it easier to read, comprehend and absorb technical information. Stories are designed to connect dots.

The 8th in the series features the Town of Comox and the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, and is titled Town of Comox – A ‘Beacon of Hope’ for Citizen Science in Action & Reconnecting Hydrology and Ecology through the Water Balance Approach to Land Development.

In September 2019, Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director, met with Comox Town Council to both release and celebrate the ‘Comox story’. His presentation was a companion presentation to one made by Marvin Kamenz, the Town’s Municipal Planner, and his colleague Regina Bozerocka. The focus of these two presentations was on the Draft Anderton Corridor Neighbourhood Concept Plan. This was the initial presentation of the Draft Plan to Council.

To watch the videos of the presentations on September 11, 2019 by Kamenz-Bozerocka and Kim Stephens, respectively, visit https://comox.ca/modx/council-meeting-videos

Urban Design & the Package of Ecological Services

“For the past decade, elected representatives and staff in the Town of Comox have quietly and without much fanfare been on a journey. With the aid of hindsight, their experience shows what the phrase hard work of hope means in practice, and what it involves to lead by example,” reports Kim Stephens.

“The Town’s journey is ongoing, and involves building blocks. This Watershed Case Profile takes stock of milestone moments along the way, with a focus on lessons that can be replicated. The Partnership has identified the Town of Comox as a ‘beacon of hope’ because of the precedents it has established when implementing the twin pillars of the whole-system, water balance approach to land development.

“The twin pillars are the Water Balance Methodology and the Ecological Accounting Process.

“The Draft Anderton Corridor Neighbourhood Concept Plan is a melding of Brooklyn Creek and Northeast Comox experience. The middle reach of Brooklyn Creek would be restored, over time, as a condition of development. A transformational dimension of the plan is recognition that ecological services are core municipal services.”

“For more than a decade, the Town has been on an amazing journey. The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia tells the Town’s story in the latest in our Watershed Case Profile Series,” Kim Stephens told Council members in his opening remarks.

“In this document, we recognize the passion, commitment and perseverance over many years on the part of Town of Comox local government staff and volunteers in the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society to improve where they live. Working together, they are making a difference.

“The ‘Comox story’ is indeed a blueprint for what the phrase hard work of hope means in practice.”

“This quote by Jim Dumont says it all,” Kim Stephens informed Council. “The last bullet is the one to remember. As we  heard from Marvin Kamenz in his presentation, you have a plan that would create a high value public asset in the middle reach of Brooklyn Creek. A year ago who would have thought that possible?”

“This image captures the essence of what the Partnership is all about. Everything we do is under the umbrella of Living Water Smart,” continued Kim Stephens. “But it is not what we do that matters. It is what local governments do. We are always on the lookout for the champions who establish precedents for others to follow.

“The Town is the poster child for the twin pillars. You are the first local government to do both.

“I want to emphasize the significance of the first statement. In 2002, the Province released the Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. I was the project manager and principal author. The Guidebook introduced the Water Balance Methodology. 17 years later, Comox is the first local government to get it right.”

“Last September, my colleague Tim Pringle spoke to Council about EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process,” Kim Stephens reminded Council members.

“Brooklyn Creek really opened our eyes. And it got us thinking. This image has become an important communication tool. It helps an audience focus on why we need to consider ecological services and use of land as equally important.”

“Kudos to Marvin Kamenz for coining the term PACKAGE OF ECOLOGICAL SERVICES. It is an example of an Aha Moment that occurred during a conversation that Marvin had with Tim Pringle. Each gives the other credit for the phrase. Marvin made an observation. That triggered a thought by Tim. In an instant, the phrase clicked,” Kim Stephens explained.

“The term Ecological Services is not intuitively obvious to most folks. But Tim Pringle and Marvin have made a major, and profound, contribution to our collective understanding  of what it means in practice. They have done this by defining Ecological Services as the RANGE OF USES DESIRED BY THE COMMUNITY.

“Three key words capture the essence of what we mean by ‘range of uses’ – drainage, recreation and habitat. These three words immediately conjure a word picture in our minds. They are visual. They make real what is an abstract concept to most people.”

“Sustainable Service Delivery is the BC branding for asset management,” stated Kim Stephens. “But more than that, senior government funding is now predicated on adherence to the BC FRAMEWORK. UBCM, the Union of BC Municipalities, encourages local governments to implement a whole-system approach that accounts for nature.

“The Town is demonstrating how to ‘walk the talk’.”

“The Town has done the hard work. And now the Partnership will do our  part to showcase and celebrate your working examples,” concluded Kim Stephens.

To Learn More:

Download a copy of Town of Comox – A ‘Beacon of Hope’ for Citizen Science in Action & Reconnecting Hydrology and Ecology through the Water Balance Approach to Land Development.

Read an introduction to REPORT ON: “Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Watershed Assessment: Brooklyn Creek Demonstration Application in the Comox Valley” (Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC; released September 2018)