Old Massett residents chose some of their top priorities for the village in a “dot-mocracy” exercise held just before Christmas as part of the village’s new Comprehensive Community Plan. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Old Massett taps grassroots for community plan

Over coffee, kitchen tables, and community dinners, Old Massett is taking a ground-up approach to a new community plan.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction, giving people a direct say in the future of our village,” said Brandon Kallio, a father of four whose whole family joined a community planning dinner held just before the holidays at K’ayaa Naay, home of Old Massett’s adult day program.

Along with kids’ games and crafts, the night featured a “dot-mocracy” exercise where Kallio and others could stick coloured dots by what they thought were the best strategies for tackling local issues, or add new strategies to the list.

But that exercise is just one of many moving the plan along.

Launched in October 2016 by former economic developer Patricia Moore, who recognized it was time to update Old Masset’s 2007 community plan, the new one is supported by local planners as well as professor Jeff Cook and graduate students in UBC’s School of of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP).

In the first phase, which wrapped up in March, about 200 community members chose a vision and a list of goals, strategies and actions for the new plan.

Among the top 20 actions that everyone came up with for improving the village were building a healing centre, removing derelict houses, holding regular public meetings with chief and council, a swimming pool, a dedicated business area, a meat/fish processing plant, a Haida language reading program, adult education classes, and a traditional longhouse for ceremonies.

Other ideas range from small things — like helping elders remove snow and ice from their roofs — to encouraging a shift toward selective harvesting in Haida Gwaii forestry and more local control over nearby fishing.

Phase two of the community plan is now underway, and is being led by local planners Victoria Grosse and Freda Davis, together with UBC SCARP students Mallory Blondeau and Hudson McLellan.

Kallio, a commercial fisher who previously served on the Old Massett Village Council, said that at the end of the day, councillors will work better if they have a grassroots plan to guide them.

“When you’re caught up in all the politics involved, you can forget what’s really important,” he said, adding that without a comprehensive plan, it’s easy to get attached to a single fix for the local economy.

“We can’t say, ‘Here’s the magic pill that’s going to save the whole village,’” he said.

“Everything is step by step.”

To get involved or find out the latest news about the plan, join the OMVC Comprehensive Community Plan page on Facebook.

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