Cowichan Bay faces the possibility that it could lose its coveted Cittaslow designation, according to Nick Versteeg.
Versteeg, president of the Cittaslow Cowichan Society, said interest in Cittaslow in the village has waned over the years, with fewer merchants and individuals participating in its activities all the time.
Cowichan Bay became North America’s first Cittaslow community in 2009, joining an international network that now includes more than 230 Cittaslow towns in 30 countries around the world.
Cittaslow, which means slow city, is an organization founded in Italy in 1999 and inspired by the slow-food movement.
Cittaslow’s goals include improving the quality of life in towns by slowing down its overall pace, especially in a city’s use of spaces and the flow of life and traffic through them.
Cowichan Bay was determined to be eligible for the designation due mainly to its small-town feel and great quality of life, the proliferation of local products in its stores, lack of fast-food restaurants, its unspoiled lands and its engaging history.
In becoming a Cittaslow town, Cowichan Bay signed an agreement to work towards goals that it would continue to improve the quality of life of the community, and Cittaslow representatives travelled from Italy to commemorate its designation at an official ceremony and ribbon-cutting event.
From its inception, the Cittaslow Cowichan Society has organized clean-ups and food and history tours of the area, held annual festivities like the popular “Dinner In White” event and promoted Cowichan Bay, and the whole Cowichan Valley, in numerous ways.
But Versteeg said that over the last few years, fewer people are involving themselves with the society’s activities, and he fears the feeling of community may be disappearing from Cowichan Bay.
“We recently held a clean-up in the village and there were just five local merchants involved,” he said.
“People just don’t seem to care anymore and that’s really sad. It appears that some see the society as some sort of an elite organization, but that’s not true. Much of our time is spent promoting local foods and businesses.”
Versteeg said he often hears from people that the society is doing a fantastic job, but more merchants and individuals need to get involved.
He encourages anyone interested to attend the society’s AGM that will be held on Feb. 7 at Cowichan Bay’s Oceanfront Hotel, beginning at 7 p.m.
For more information on the society and its AGM, check out www.cittaslowcowichan.org.