Approximately 28 million tonnes of metallurgical coal is produced annually in the Elk Valley. Much of that comes through the Shuswap by rail. Gary Campbell Photography Inc.

Editorial: The power of public engagement

It’s always inspiring when citizens rise to tackle a seemingly insurmountable problem, especially when it’s done with respect, research and real-world engagement.

Every now and then we see examples of this in the Shuswap, where one or more individuals have latched onto an issue and, instead of trolling social media with more unsolicited opinion, they have chosen to address the problem first-hand by actually speaking to people, researching the problem on their own time and dime, with the hope of developing solutions that will be more agreeable to all parties involved.

We saw this with SmartCentres in Salmon Arm, when a group of residents conducted extensive research that showed the developer’s initial plans for the 61-acre property was based on incorrect data relating to the riparian area setback. As a result of the group’s effort, and the subsequent assessment by the B.C. government, the size of the development was reduced from 51 to 16.7 acres.

Another Shuswap resident stepping up for a greater good is Marijke Dake. She has been meeting with residents, local governments and CP Rail to address public and environmental health and safety concerns related to coal dust escaping from rail cars that run through the region.

Instead of pointing fingers, Dake has been addressing her concerns with objective aplomb, making well-researched public presentations to garner support for what she sees as a viable solution, setting up a spray station somewhere east of Salmon Arm (and likely the Shuswap) that would help prevent, if not eliminate, errant coal dust.

Dake has been applauded for her proactive style of community engagement which has impressed even CP, who have told Dake they plan to look at options to help address the problem.

Such examples serve as a reminder that we are not powerless to effect change, provided we are willing to put in the time and effort.

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