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Opinion: Mission Unaccomplished in Squamish

'Between the wish and the thing, the world lies waiting.'
Squamish municipal hall
Squamish Municipal Hall.

Mission statements and goals are the bread and butter of large organizations. They are also closely akin to New Year’s resolutions. That is, they are easy enough to make but are just as easily broken. It appears several key District of Squamish bulletins fit that description.                                                                                                      

The Official Community Plan promises to “protect and enhance the livability of the community” and provide “forward-thinking and responsive governance.” Additionally, one of the goals of council’s Strategic Plan is to address “the needs of children and youth as well as those of our seniors and elders to ensure that our community works for all.” As much as both statements are well-intentioned, their credibility is being challenged on various fronts.

Last fall, when residents were invited to offer online feedback related to the 2022-2026 Financial Plan, one Brackendale resident echoed the sentiments of several other discussion participants when she pointed out that a lack of sidewalks along Government Road meant walking to school was precarious for her two school-age children.                                                                                       

Another commenter called the sidewalk situation in Squamish “a joke.” He wondered why residents should endorse further development and densification when “even the simplest of tasks cannot be completed?”         

But it’s not just a lack of sidewalks that is concerning. What happens to existing walkways when the snow flies is equally troubling. Navigating snow-choked downtown sidewalks can be hazardous for many seniors, disabled residents, or moms pushing strollers.

This unfortunate state of affairs is becoming an annual affliction for the District and it looks like the situation is not improving.

After the first major winter storm in December, one resident who has lived here for 37 years claimed on social media that the District’s snow removal regimen was “hands down, the worst response to snow clearing, especially in the last five years.”

A senior who lives downtown said given all the tax money the District collects, it is, “absolutely appalling” that sidewalks are so dangerous to walk on. A fellow online traveller was similarly unhappy with the situation. “As an older person, it is terrifying trying to walk the sidewalks or parking lots right now,” she said.

It should be noted, too, that local businesses are responsible for sidewalks in front of their shops, and for their parking lots!

Another social media commenter added this frank advice: “I’m not an employee of the District, but if I was, I would look at how other towns do things, not just for snow removal.”  

Another poster put an alternative spin on the situation. “The non-stop complaining is so boring,” she said.                                           

When it comes to venting, the perceived deficiencies at the Brennan Park Recreation Centre were a magnet for discontent during the 2022-2026 Financial Plan online discussions hosted by the District.

One participant claimed the facility was “poorly run” and in no uncertain terms, advised council to do better. Another participant added more fuel to the fire. She said, “I’ve completely had it with this District’s complete incompetence when it comes to our recreational facilities. Whoever is in charge of our facilities should be fired. I’m serious.”

Complaints aside, many of those shortcomings will no doubt be addressed once the upgrades to Brennan Park get underway.                                                                                              
Still, inspirational DOS mission statements notwithstanding, in the here and now for many Squamish residents, mission unaccomplished is the name of the game. In his best-selling novel, All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy puts it this way: “The world is quite ruthless in selecting between the dream and reality, even where we will not. Between the wish and the thing, the world lies waiting.”

Political columnist Helmut Manzl writes about muni hall for The Squamish Chief twice per month.

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