As the Kus-kus-sum initiative heads into 2020 people are eager to hear what is happening with the site, and more specifically, when. “The only thing we are waiting on is money” reports Kathy Haigh, Fundraising Director at Project Watershed.
Kus-kus-sum is the name given to the 8.3 acres of concrete next to the 17th Street bridge along the Courtenay River and Comox Road. It was the location of a sawmill until 2006 when operations ceased and the equipment was removed. Since then it has been sitting as an unsightly vacant lot in the heart of the Comox Valley.
Comox Valley Project Watershed Society started raising funds for returning the site to nature at the end of 2017. The organization has raised $2.6 million to date and over $190,000 so far this winter. “The support from the community and beyond has been inspiring. We have met and surpassed all our local community fundraising goals but we aren’t at the finish line yet,” commented Caila Holbrook, Manager of Fundraising, Outreach and Mapping for Project Watershed.
Project Watershed has committed to making the final $1 million payment for the land at the end of June of this year. The organization has been working with all levels of government to encourage the Federal Government to at least match the $1 million the Provincial Government granted the project last year.
“The leadership gift by the Province was a watershed moment for the project and was largely inspired by the Province’s commitment to reconciliation and the work of the K’ómoks First Nation,” stated Tim Ennis, Senior Project Manager. “ The Federal Government has made similar commitments to reconciliation, and the environment as well, making this project a good fit for Federal funds.”
“With our payment date coming up this June, we can’t afford to wait for the Federal Government,” affirms Ms. Haigh. “Our fundraising program is going strong and any funds raised over the purchase price will be put towards the restoration of the site. So, at the moment, our target is to raise $1 million by June 19th.” Project Watershed encourages people to donate online at www.kuskussum.ca, by visiting or mailing a cheque to 2356a Rosewall Crescent, or by calling 250-703-2871.
After the land is purchased Project Watershed can begin the restoration. They report having already started writing grants for the first phase of the process: removing the building and the concrete. “Removing the concrete is the single biggest cost of the project” reports Jennifer Sutherst, Project Watershed Staff Biologist.
The estimated timeline for the restoration is as follows: acquire the land on June 30th, 2020 and initiate removal of the concrete in July; continue concrete removal to the end of 2021; create the slope and replant the site by the end of 2022; remove the wall in 2023 or 2024. “We will leave the wall in place as this will allow us to work on the property without disturbing the river and allow the plants to settle in and stabilize the sediment,” said Mrs. Sutherst.
So, while the wall won’t fall for a few years yet, big changes on the Kus-kus-sum site are slated for the near future. Visit www.projectwatershed.ca for more information.