The New Business As Usual: "Design with Nature" in British Columbia and be rewarded with infrastructure grants
Town of View Royal hosts first of three events in the 2008 Showcasing Green Innovation on Vancouver Island Series (September 12)
Building on the interest and momentum generated by successful series on both sides of the Georgia Basin in 2007, CAVI-Convening for Action on Vancouver Island is collaborating with the Capital Regional District and the Green Infrastructure Partnership to present Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation in the Capital Region: The 2008 Series.
The first in the series will be on September 12 and will be hosted by the Town of View Royal. For a program overview and registration details, click on this link to download a copy of Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation in the Town of View Royal. Registration will be capped at 32.
Showcasing Innovation in View Royal
View Royal developed an innovative Design with Nature strategy to obtain senior government funding for retrofitting the old Island Highway with transportation and rainwater management enhancements. These will achieve environmental, water quality and social sustainability objectives at both the road and community scales. The Town is sharing its Gas Tax Agreement Grant Template with other municipalities.
Restoration of Portage Inlet drives enhancement of the old Island Highway
The Town of View Royal will showcase its Transportation Master Plan, with the spotlight on the implementation strategy for reconstruction and enhancement of the old Island Highway in phases. “Through a comprehensive consultation process, the community has embraced a holistic, ecosystem approach that looks for opportunities and synergies to achieve multiple objectives when replacing and/or retrofitting municipal infrastructure. A desired outcome is a liveable community that is in harmony with nature,” reports Emmet McCusker, Director of Engineering.
“In 2007, the Town’s vision and innovation was rewarded by a $7.4 million grant to fund the first phase of the old Island Highway project,” continues Emmet McCusker. “A driver is restoration of water quality in Portage Inlet, often described as the jewel of Victoria.”
Design with Nature
The project achieves five of six elements of a Design with Nature strategy. Furthermore, this regional precedent demonstrates what is meant by The New Business As Usual, establishes new and higher expectations for an environmental approach to infrastructure design, and sets a provincial benchmark for other municipalities to measure themselves against when applying for senior government funding.
“The Town will share its Grant Application Template so that others can benefit from this successful precedent,” advises Emmet McCusker.
While We’ve Got that Road Dug Up
“The Town will also present its vision for a regional fibre optic network owned by local government,” adds McCusker. This would create opportunities for local government to generate new revenue streams”. The old Island Highway project includes installation of a duct for a possible future fibre optic cable. This illustrates what can be done “While We’ve Got that Road Dug Up”.
Applying the Green Infrastructure Grant Template
A value-added dimension to the Showcasing day will be an interactive exercise built around the View Royal Template. Emmet McCusker and Wayne Gibson will guide participants through the Template. According to Gibson, “Our objective is to show by example how a local government can bring its innovative ideas to the forefront; and in so doing, differentiate itself from other local governments when applying for provincial infrastructure grants.”
Participants will be assigned to working groups to complete a case study exercise. “To provide reality, each group will be tasked with developing a concept for enhancing a specific section of a real road located somewhere in the region,” explains Emmet McCusker. Registrants are invited to pre-submit (by August 31) an aerial photo of an area of their municipality that could be the subject of a future grant application. The purpose of the pre-submission is to enable Emmet McCusker and Wayne Gibson to do some advance work so that the group exercise will be seamless.
Working groups will apply the View Royal Template to develop a grant application that achieves integration of transportation, drainage and water quality objectives. According to Emmet McCusker, “The key message is that working group participants will leave with something tangible to show for their participation in the Showcasing day.”
Constructing a Successful Rain Garden
Rain gardens are a core element of the Design with Nature strategy for enhancement of the old Island Highway. “The right mix of soil and the right selection of plants are key to cleaning and absorbing rainwater runoff,” explains Lehna Malmkvist. To round out the presentation by Emmet McCusker on the Island Highway Improvement Project (IHIP), Lehna will elaborate on the practical aspects of designing and building rain gardens from the vegetation ecologist’s perspective.
“This segment of the Showcasing day will include a ‘Bill Nye type’ demonstration of dirty water being cleansed when it flows through soil,” adds Deb Becelaere, Engineering Technologist with the Town of View Royal. “Because of the educational value that it will provide long-term, we decided to build a portable rain garden that we can use for show-and-tell purposes. The plexi-glass construction means people can view the water percolate through the soil profile. We believe this visual experience will help build understanding of what we wish to accomplish with the rain gardens.”
“My Rain Garden” – Fostering an Ethic
According to Emmet McCusker, homeowners fronting on roadways will be involved in the decision-making for rain garden plant selection: “We believe this is the first step to generating the personal interest that will lead to homeowner commitment to undertake ongoing rain garden maintenance. This is a key to the long-term success of the Island Highway Enhancement Project.”
“We are talking in terms of a major shift in the way people think about their road frontage,” continues Emmet McCusker. “It will be really important to develop a community spirit that in turn fosters an ethic. To that end, the Town will be partnering with community groups to take the “my rain garden” concept from vision to reality.”
View Royal Walkabout
After lunch, there will be a walkabout from Town Hall down to Portage Park to inspect a wetlands area that is an integral element of the Island Highway Improvement Project. Portage Park is View Royal’s largest nature park and encompasses over six hectares of greenspace.
The walkabout will then proceed along E&N railway corridor. This provides an opportunity to talk about the duct for fibre optic cable that the Capital Region District is installing in conjunction with trail construction. It is envisioned that this project would become one of the backbones of a future regional fibre optic network.
The last leg of the walkabout will be to walk up the old Island Highway back to Town Hall. This provides an on-the-spot opportunity to expound on challenges and solutions in retrofitting rain gardens.
Vision for Municipal Fibre Optics Network
View Royal has a vision for a regional fibre optic network owned by local government. “In an age of senior government downloading, combined with higher community expectations for more and more services, we see a fibre optic network creating opportunities for local government to generate new revenue streams,” states Emmet McCusker. “Someone has to take the first step, and then others will follow. Installing a duct to make provision for a future fibre optic cable just seemed the right thing to do while we have the Island Highway dug up.”
“Initially, we thought View Royal was venturing into uncharted territory,” adds Emmet McCusker. “We have since learned that the City of Coquitlam started laying duct some 20 years ago in conjunction with its roads improvement projects, and is now moving to the next stage by installing the cable.”
After the walkabout, Gareth Shearman and Garth Graham of the Victoria Free-Net Association will tag-team to paint a picture of the technical and social implications, respectively, of what it would mean for local government to own a fibre optic network. “In 1992, the Victoria Free-Net Association established a Canadian first when it provided dial-up access to the Internet,” reports Gareth Shearman, President of Victoria Free-Net. “Garth Graham will address the issue of a connected society and what this may ultimately mean for the future of our society.”
According to Emmet McCusker, the vision is that the municipalities in the region would own the duct and the cable and would contract out the system maintenance. “We believe that business nodes will spring up along this communication pipeline. The green infrastructure context is that we will be providing Wi-Fi connections at bus stops. Also, enabling access to a fibre optic network offers the potential for greenhouse gas reduction benefits by encouraging people to work from home.”
About the 2008 Showcasing Series
To learn more about the three events comprising the 2008 program, click here to download a copy of the Program Overview and/or click on the following link to read a web story titled Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation on Vancouver Island: The 2008 Capital Region Series.
A key to the success of the Showcasing Innovation Series is that it creates pride and enables local governments to tell their stories in a way that no other forum currently provides.
According to John Finnie, CAVI Chair (and General Manager, Environmental Services, Regional District of Nanaimo), “The goal of the Series is to promote networking, inform and educate practitioners, and help local governments move ‘from awareness to action’ in doing business differently — The New Business As Usual — through sharing of approaches, tools, experiences and lessons learned that will ultimately inform a pragmatic strategy for climate change adaptation.”
“There are a lot of good things happening throughout Vancouver Island. Yet practitioners in local government are not necessarily aware when they are being innovative and are not often aware of innovation in other municipalities,” continues John Finnie, “Because people are so busy in their own worlds, it takes a third party to connect them. That is the role that CAVI plays.”
Posted August 2008