Campbell River Compost Education Centre saved

Area D director serves as white knight to the rescue

Campbell River’s Compost Education Centre, expected to be closed indefinitely, has been given new life.

In a last ditch effort, at last Thursday’s Comox Strathcona Waste Management meeting, the board voted to keep the Compost Education Centre open.

The deal was contingent on Area D Director Brenda Leigh allocating $20,000 from her Area D budget for a compost centre in Maple Park towards the operating expenses for the Campbell River compost centre.

Leigh, who has been a strong supporter of the Compost Education Centre, said there was no question in her mind that it was something she had to do.

“Sometimes the decisions we have in front of us in local government are difficult, but, in this instance, I feel strongly that I did what was required,” Leigh said. “This was absolutely the right thing to do. Had I not made this offer, I believe that our region would have lost a very successful and well-established program that is highly valued by hundreds of citizens.”

Leigh said her decision will not impact the viability of Area D’s Maple Community Gardens project, which is planned to go ahead this spring.

Leigh’s $20,000 offer will cover a portion of the $42,700 total cost to operate the Compost Education Centre. The remainder will be made up through re-allocations in the solid waste service’s operating budget.

Comox Valley Regional District staff, which provides direction to the solid waste board, had recommended last fall that the board close both compost education centres in the Comox Valley and Campbell River to save $137,227 in 2014.

While the Comox Valley centre is still set to close, Campbell River councillors and some Strathcona Regional District directors fought to keep the Campbell River centre open.

At a solid waste meeting in November, Leigh made a motion to retain the Campbell River Compost Education Centre, but it was voted down.

“Unfortunately, Comox Valley directors’ support for the waste reduction centre in Campbell River was not strong and the Comox Valley has much more voting strength on financial matters than the Strathcona contingent on our board (which is made up of both Strathcona and Comox Valley regional district directors),” Leigh said. “Although the net cost was determined to be only $42,700, which would not even add more than a penny to overall taxes, the board had voted down my motions twice in the months preceding the February 13 board. I sensed that something needed to be put on the table to show commitment to the waste reduction education that would make the proposal acceptable to the majority of the solid waste board.”

It worked, and the majority of the board voted in favour of continuing operations at the Compost Education Centre, which Leigh said is important to the region.

Last year alone, 5,367 people visited the centre on Dogwood Street while in 2012, 5,447 stopped by.

According to user studies, 30 field trips are booked annually to the Compost Education Centre and the site has also been used to co-host or partner on events and initiatives with the city of Campbell River such as Communities in Bloom, water efficient landscaping, and composter rebate programs.

The centre also complements the region’s solid waste plan, which was adopted by the waste management board in 2013 and aims to reduce the amount of waste going into the landfills by promoting diversion, waste reduction and education programs.

Leigh said the programs run out of the Compost Education Centre are valuable to the entire region and without them “education about illegal dumping, composting, water conservation, how to reduce the use of pesticides, (and) how to reduce waste at source would have been severely and negatively impacted.”

While the waste management board has approved keeping the Compost Education Centre open, the solid waste budget still has to be approved by the Comox Valley Regional District as part of its budget which is expected to be adopted by the end of March.

The Comox Strathcona Waste Management service is a function of the Comox Valley Regional District.