A seedling is held up lovingluy in someone's hand

What Quadra ICAN accomplished in 2022

According to the 2021 census, 36% of Quadra Island’s population is 65 years old or older. That’s 10% higher than throughout the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) as a whole, which has a considerably higher proportion of seniors than most of the province. The only Area in the SRD with a larger percentage of seniors is Cortes Island, where that number is 38%. Some might regard that large number of retirees as a problem, Quadra ICAN’s new Coordinator, Ramona Boyle,’ describes them as an asset that was responsible for much of her organization’s accomplishments during 2022.

Cropped image of Ramona Boyle from a submitted photo

Related article: Ramona Boyle, Quadra ICAN’s new Coordinator

“We have a pool of retirees who have expertise and time and energy to put into all kinds of endeavours that they have gained experience with.  We have, of course, younger members  and teenagers.  Young families are also part of our action, but the backbone, as it is with most volunteer organizations, is that pool of retirees.”

“I know we have the regional district as a structure, but the voice of islanders is tiny on that body. The interests of the island will never be the priority of the regional district just because of the population concentration in Campbell River.”  

“The fact that we have been able to accomplish as much as we have with just the efforts of volunteers, I think in many ways comes down to a history of independent action of people who have lived on an island and had to make do for generations.”

ICAN started about five years ago, had a little bit of a hiatus, a falling off, and then it was reinvigorated before the beginning of Covid.” 

“In the last, I would say three years, there’s been really significant progress in a number of areas.” 

“Let’s just talk about water security, two projects that come to mind.” 

“One is the importation of IBC (intermediate bulk container) totes for the collection of rainwater made available to the community at cost,  to encourage the use of rainwater for irrigation and animal use, for example, rather than drawing from the aquifers of potable water.” 

“The second thing that committee has been working really hard on is a project to map the aquifers of Quadra Island so that we have a better understanding of what the resources are, what challenges we would face if we were to develop In any parts of the island  and what are the dangers posed by climate change to those water resources? That’s been undertaken with the assistance of a university professor and their geology class, who just recently made a presentation to the community about what they had learned. That will form the basis of  further work to determine what water resources are really on the island.”

“There’s so much preliminary work that has to happen before we can come up with an answer to the question, ‘How much is reasonable to develop the population of the island?’ What is the limit?  How many people can live here without ending up in the same situation that Salt Spring is in, for example, with water shortages?  And that’s a really, really critical question because we are at the point now of making decisions about development and how many more houses can be built  and what kind of construction is reasonable. There’s a real push to get answers to those questions for sure.” 

“Other action groups have different projects that they’re working on.” 

“We have a Transportation Committee that is working on improving access for bicycles and pedestrians on the island to discourage the use of automobiles.” 

The Live Lightly group partnered with the Regional District Waste Management to construct a  recycling depot on West Road and have plans to build  a free store beside it. It will be manned during business hours, and that’s partly  to deal with the problems that we’ve had with our current recycling depot, where people are using it as a dump  for garbage, which contaminates the recycling loads and makes it useless to use for recycling. It ends up in the landfill. This is a solution to that problem, and it will mean that we will be able to recycle glass on the island, for example, which we couldn’t before, and styrofoam and many of the other things that currently  have to go to Campbell River. So that group has been very active and working for more than a year on that project. It is finally coming to fruition.

We’ve just secured a grant that allowed us to develop the Library of Things.

 The DIY (Do it yourself) group is another action group has been working for several years to develop a tool lending library, or a Library of Things. They have now secured a location. It’s going to be on  the site of the credit union.  The building has been very generously given for the use of the lending library. It doesn’t make sense for everybody to own a tool that they use once or twice a year  or occasionally.  The lending library will be available for people to borrow tools, but also equipment for food preservation — canners, dehydrators, pots and that sort of thing. The infrastructure to develop it has taken some time to create: the computer systems to monitor the things as they’re borrowed and returned and checked to make sure that they still work; the filing system to make sure that we can keep track  of all of the equipment.

 The Library of Things is another success. I would say, look for it before the summer to be up and operational.

 A donation from an individual in the community was what provided the salary to hire me.

The virtual free store works online.  

As a newcomer to Quadra the circulation of goods and services through the buy and sell or through the virtual free store is a very interesting thing.

This is how I have connected with the community and have met people and traveled the island as I go to pick up  a duck from somebody  who wants to get rid of  a surplus flock. But then we end up chatting about everything that we have in common. It might be honey one time, or  a dining room set or all of these things that get circulated. I got something free, then I feel an obligation to also share this thing that I might have sold or taken to the thrift store in Campbell River, I’m going to offer it to my community.  It does create a sense of community and knowing people and knowing  a little bit more about the island than I did after nine years in Calgary. That didn’t happen, I didn’t even know my neighbours in Calgary. I knew one neighbour by name and that is not the case here.

Another group is the Energy Self-Sufficiency group. One of their projects was the installation of solar panels on the Quadra Elementary School.  That was their success  to show that it can be done even on the rainy West coast.

We’re in the process of applying for a Rural Economic Development Infrastructure Program grant.  It’s up to $50,000. We are applying  for ICAN projects to improve food security and food production on the island. 

We encourage people always to join us and volunteer when there’s projects that are underway.

One of our projects is to introduce nut trees to public lands on the island so that this food is available to everybody. Planting 200 trees  is a project that we put a call out for volunteers and they come  and they do that work. They might not attend meetings, but that’s how things get done.

 Another project:  a community member has very generously donated the use of his land to create compost windrows for wood chips that otherwise would leave the island. Those wood chips are turned  by tractors and create compost that can be distributed to the community. So that’s the beginning of a project to keep compost of all kinds on the island and available to island gardeners.  That will be developed as time goes on, from just wood chips to  a wider range of organic materials.

Cortes Currents: So what’s next, moving forward?

I think,  put a call out for people that are interested in participating. There’s lots of things going on and lots of progress in each of those areas, but  we do still need the voice of people. What are we missing? What do you think is important in the community? 

Top image credit: Planting a seedling – Photo by Kate Ter Haar via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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