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Cumberland mayor speaks of future after best town nomination

Cumberland mayor Leslie Baird says the town has come a long way over the years, after being nominated for best B.C. small town.

The mayor remembered and spoke of a time when Cumberland was a little less known on the Canadian geographical map.

“I know when I was first elected to council, we had to explain to people where Cumberland was,” said Baird. “But now it’s different when you go to conventions and gatherings and people know exactly where you’re from when you say, Cumberland.”

She says the biggest additions that made the town so well known today include tourism and mountain biking, specifically the BC Bike Race.

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“When we had the BC Bike Race it started here and you’d have over 700 athletes from around the world coming to Cumberland,” said Baird.

Participants in the race said they wanted to spend most of their time on the Island in Cumberland during the competition. Baird mentioned participants would film their experiences and share them with followers on social media.

While the town’s growth is seen as a positive change, Baird is concerned about the lack of housing and increasing unaffordability. She fears future generations won’t be able to stay.

“The people who’ve grown up here can’t afford to buy a house here,” said Baird. “That is really concerning to me for my kids and my grandkids, because we love this community and we open the doors to invite people in.”

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Baird says this problem is beyond Cumberland and is happening all over Vancouver Island and the province.

She feels the provincial government has a responsibility to provide as the community doesn’t have the funding to help many of its residents.

“Affordable housing is one of the biggest assets that would help the village and we don’t have the ability to give things developers want for affordable housing,” said Baird. “Some of it we can do ourselves, but it’s very difficult to protect your heritage in a community like ours. We have many buildings over a hundred years old and we don’t have the tools to protect them.”

She adds the community welcomes newcomers and asks for respect when they come to the area.

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