After the circulation of a petition gathering signatures of over 700 individuals with the desire to have safe public access to the Ashcroft Slough, Ashcroft Terminal made a gesture by forming a Community Working Group to help it respond to the community’s concerns and to raise the company’s public profile.
By all accounts, the talks of the so called Community Working Group, hand-picked by Ashcroft Terminal and composed mostly of employees, former employees, business associates, and contractors, were respectful and cordial. However, there was initial consternation when the only three community members wanted to talk about continued slough access and the co-chairs quickly clarified the purpose of the group was to find alternatives to slough access.
Charitably, the rest of the group did allow the community members to present information about the many different stakeholder groups using the slough, and even entertained an analysis of an option providing safe, legal access to the slough. It was evident, however, that access to the slough would not be an option to recommend. Hence, the Ashcroft Slough Society was formed as a voice for the community looking for meaningful consultation.
Ashcroft Terminal stated publicly that the final recommendation put forth by the Community Working Group was arrived at by consensus. But when community members balked at the options available, they were gently compelled into consensus by being asked “Well, if you had to make a choice what would it be?”
There was no formal vote. All members of the working group, including facilitator, co-chairs, and consultants, had a turn in commenting on the options proffered, even sharing misinformation about one of the two final recommendations.
Ashcroft Terminal is not bound by any recommendation submitted because the working group was only an advisory group and not a decision-making body. The whole process seems to have been a public relations exercise without any intent to solve the removal of public access to the slough.
Ashcroft Terminal is relatively new in our community and its operations are going to be impacting our lives for the long haul. The company has a critical decision to make about the relationship it wants to build with the public.
Our slough is irreplaceable. The many stakeholders, locals and visitors alike, who use the slough are not going to willingly accept anything less than safe, legal access to it. Full stop.