Nanaimo resident Rory Rickwood has a mission. He believes that fast-paced development adjacent to one of Nanaimo’s fragile marshlands are putting those sensitive ecosystems at risk. Rickwood experienced the clout of Nanaimo’s pro-development lobby while chairing Friends of the Cat Stream, a small environmental group working to protect Cat Stream and its headwaters Jingle Pot Marsh. Rory was dismayed when a city-sponsored land-use planning process resulted in the construction of high-impact sports fields adjacent to Jingle Pot Marsh and a harmful asphalt trail running straight across the marsh from the Nanaimo Ice Centre on Third Avenue to Jingle Pot Road. The trail divides a wildlife corridor, and if that isn’t bad enough, burgeoning housing projects underway around the marsh are sending a constant stream of bird-killing cats and moped-mounted kids into the marsh areas to kill or drive away skittish wildlife the rest of us like to see.
Since City of Nanaimo claims of community involvement in their planning processes have proved to be a sham, Rory Rickwood is organizing a Nanaimo Visitor Boycott. Rory is quick to point out that his website is a personal protest and has nothing to do with Friends of the Cat Stream. It’s all about Nanaimo’s unacceptable land-use planning processes and the environmental degradation of the city’s sensitive ecosystem inventory. A citizen-led habitat restoration initiative to restore the disturbed wetland habitat is being stymied by Nanaimo City Council’s unwillingness to work with local stewards to solve environmental concerns.
The visitor boycott call is Rickwood’s attempt to foster a healthier community through environmental protest. On the site you’ll find excerpts from news stories about Nanaimo’s marshlands over the past decade and that coverage doesn’t make Nanaimo look good. The essay “Why Nanaimo is an Un-healthy Community” defines a “healthy community” and Nanaimo’s “Old-boys Club”, and showcases Nanaimo as a “community in constant crisis because of a powerful Old-boys Club and the perception that our democratic process is being constantly compromised”. The essay makes positive suggestions for improvements, and concludes by saying, “if we don’t collectively shape our community, an un-healthy community will continue to shape us”.
Since the Nanaimo Visitor Boycott website appeared in March 2010, the Buttertubs Marsh Liaison Committee has tried to negotiate an alternative to the asphalt trail across the marsh to no avail. The City of Nanaimo kyboshed a suggestion to install a 50-foot raised boardwalk at the lowest part of the asphalt trail so the little marsh critters could pass underneath safely. No profits for the Old-boys Club in that!
Rory Rickwood has a varied background including service as a school trustee, chair of the Vancouver Island Regional Library Board, and chair of a healthy communities task force for the community of Sooke. In 2001, he was a recipient of Nanaimo’s Volunteer Stewardship Award. According to Rory, the Nanaimo Visitor Boycott website will be taken down when the City of Nanaimo begins to promote a healthy atmosphere for environmental groups in this city. To demonstrate such a commitment, the city must embark on habitat restoration at Jingle Pot Marsh. Until that happens Rory and his supporters will do their best to persuade environmentally-conscious students not to attend Vancouver Island University and potential tourists to spend their holiday dollars elsewhere.