The Oceanfront Planning Process is intended to be a community-driven process but planners are worried about a lack of public input.
"We have been a little disappointed with the amount of community input we have been able to achieve to date," said Mayor Greg Gardner. "This is an important process because the land will set the tone for our community for many decades to come."
The process, which started with a lot of pomp and celebration last summer, is supposed to be a community-based process to plan the future of the Oceanfront Peninsula, which includes Nexen Beach. The plan is intended to reflect current and future Squamish residents' economic, social and environmental interests.
Spearheaded by the District of Squamish, the consultation process started in May 2008 and a new plan will be presented to council in late spring of 2009. The Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation, Westmana and B.C. Rail are helping to fund the process.
"The planning process is being funded by the three land owners and I would say this is an incredible opportunity for the community," Gardner said. "In many ways, we have a blank slate to create whatever vision the community desires."
So far, the "Create the Oceanfront" planning process has not garnered much interest. The launch was well received but only 70 people attended the open house in October. Since May 2008, the website has only logged 985 unique visits and only 76 people viewed the planning workbooks online.
"It is absolutely critical that we get more community feedback," said HB Lanarc Consultant Pete Whitelaw.
The planning process is entering the third of five phases. Whitelaw said community members were informed about the process and the options to be explored through newspaper advertisements, email contacts and Facebook contacts, and through members of community groups invited to focus groups.
"We are going to take the feedback we have gathered so far and use it in some draft plans. We are hoping to have some kind of model that people can get immediately," Whitelaw said.
Bill McNeney, Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation Chair, is also urging Squamish residents to get involved in the planning process.
"This is the time for the people to get their opinions out there. We are looking for a vision from the community," McNeney said.
McNeney said once the planning process is complete it will be harder for the community to express opinions about upcoming development. He said the entire shape of the peninsula will be driven by feedback from the community and so far a small number of people have actually spoken up.
"The people we have heard from are in no way representative of the entire community. This is your oceanfront Squamish, so get your oar in the water," McNeney said.
McNeney suspects that community engagement has been low because the information provided is often very detailed. In other words the information is not very glamorous.
After taking a walk along the oceanfront, Gardner is reminded that the land in question is beautiful.
"I would like to highlight the absolutely incredible viewscapes. This could become the iconic focal point for our community," Gardner said.
Gardner is confident that one day the Oceanfront Peninsula will draw travelers off the Sea to Sky Highway and into Squamish. He went as far as to say that Squamish could be known as Whistler's beach.
"It might bring a whole new facet of tourism to the corridor so have your say now," Gardner said.
For more information on the "Create the Oceanfront" planning process, check out www.createtheoceanfront.ca or join the Facebook group with the same name.