Council will not approve a smokehouse in the Houston Community Garden because of concerns about bears and public safety.
Houston Link to Learning submitted a request to council for approval to build a smokehouse at the Community Garden to use as an education tool as part of the Stepping Stones project.
At the previous council meeting Aug. 6, council heard from Link to Learning and from residents who opposed the proposed smokehouse because of concerns about bears, increased traffic and parking issues.
Since then, council also received a letter from one resident on Copeland North Ave. who stated her support of the garden but her opposition to the smokehouse.
“I do not support the location of the smokehouse… I am First Nations, my mother was Similkameen, and I lived and worked on reserve for nine years,” the resident said in her letter.
She went on to say that she has used a community smokehouse, is aware of the care and maintenance requirements.
“I can tell you with certainty that traditionally in the communities I lived and worked in, a smokehouse would not be located adjacent to homes. Generally smokehouses were located away from where people lived,” she said, adding that it has changed in recent years because of theft, but changes have brought challenges with bears.
“There is no way to ‘clean’ the smell of fish and meat from the house,” she said.
The resident enclosed information from the B.C. Ministry of Environment about reducing issues with bears around smokehouses, and listed several factors that rule out the Community Garden location.
“The area is already frequented by bears, there is dense bush close by, and we know that there are berries on the dyke and fish in the Bulkley River which provide food source for the bears in the fall already,” she said.
“I would love to have access to a smokehouse in this community…and I hope that Houston Link to Learning can find another location,” said the resident.
At the meeting last Tuesday, council discussed the issue and all agreed that the Community Garden is not a good location for a smokehouse.
Councillor Rick Lundrigan said that he cannot support the smokehouse proposal because of the percent of the neighbourhood opposing it and the issue of public safety.
“I did some research and there is plenty of evidence to support that smokehouses will attract bears. Although there are some deterrents that can be done, there’s not a lot of evidence that proves that they’re overly successful at deterring bears from coming around,” he said.
Mayor Bill Holmberg and Deputy Mayor Shane Brienen agreed.
“I think it’s a great educational idea, I like what they’re trying to do, but I don’t feel it’s the location,” said Brienen.
Councillor Jonathan Van Barneveld said he grew up in that area and remembers bear encounters every fall.
“The smokehouse, whether it contributes to it or not, is a factor.”
He says that with all the documents provided, there was not a lot of facts presented from either side, and the letter quoted above was the most helpful document received.
With the information supplied, stating that traditional smokehouses were never in residential areas and the fact that you’ll never get a scent-free smokehouse, Van Barneveld says he agrees not to approve the Community Garden for the smokehouse.
“It’s about public safety,” said Lundrigan.