Gibsons’ Natural Asset Management Journey

The wetlands in White Tower Park act as a natural stormwater management system.

The Town of Gibsons was North America’s first community to experiment with strategies to integrate natural assets into asset management and financial planning. Here is a brief overview of our journey:

2009 to 2013: As part of its long-term plan to protect its most important natural asset, the Gibsons Aquifer, the Town of Gibsons commissions an Aquifer-Mapping-Report. This comprehensive report greatly expands the community’s understanding of aquifer boundaries, hydraulic properties, and recharge and discharge to and from the aquifer. As a result, current and future stakeholders are better able to understand how their decisions may affect the aquifer.

2014: Gibsons becomes the first municipality in North America – and possibly in the world – to pass a municipal asset management policy that:

  1. Explicitly defines and recognizes natural assets as an asset class; and
  2. Creates specific obligations to operate, maintain and replace natural assets alongside traditional capital assets. These obligations include having well-defined natural asset management strategies in place, as well as the financial resources to maintain them.

In doing so, Gibsons moves natural assets from the periphery of municipal decision-making to its core and, together with its natural asset policy, provides a framework for the Town’s future asset management actions.

2014: After much discussion, our financial auditors agree to include a note acknowledging the importance of Gibson’s natural assets in its annual financial statements. Read the Auditors Note.

2015: Gibsons’ Committee-of-the-Whole endorses the Town’s official Eco-Asset Strategy, which documents the pioneering approach being undertaken to place nature, and the municipal services that it provides, at the core of our municipal infrastructure system.

2016: The Town of Gibsons becomes a founding member of the Municipal Natural Asset Initiative (MNAI). The MNAI team provides scientific, economic and municipal expertise to support and guide local governments in identifying, valuing and accounting for natural assets in their financial planning and asset management programs, and in developing leading-edge, sustainable and climate resilient infrastructure.

2018: Advancing Municipal Natural Asset Management: The Town of Gibsons’ experience in financial planning & reporting is produced and released by the Town of Gibsons, in partnership with the Municipal Natural Asset Initiative. Our hope is that this document helps drive a broader conversion to natural asset management in the municipal finance community and, ultimately, to the creation of a recognized accounting standard that communities can use for the valuation of their assets.

Roy Brooke (MNAI), Emanuel Machado (Town of Gibsons) and Stephanie Cairns (Smart Prosperity Institute) accept award at the 2018 Land Awards.

2018: The Town of Gibsons and its co-partners in the Municipal Natural Asset Initiative are declared winners of the Land Use and Conservation category at the Real Estate Foundation of BC’s prestigious Land Awards. The Land Awards celebrate “big ideas and bold leadership in land use, sustainability and real estate…and recognize projects that understand smart land use decisions lead to better possibilities for the future.”

2019: The Town of Gibsons wins “Award for Government Leadership in Sustainable Infrastructure, Western Region” for its Natural Asset Management Plan at the Awards for Civil Engineering Excellence (ACE). ACE is hosted by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering.

In September 2019, the Town initiates Project Healthy Harbour in partnership with the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre. The project vision is “A healthy and vibrant harbour” and together, the organizations are actively working to advance the goals and objectives set out by Council for the Gibsons Harbour area, and to transform the Gibsons Harbour area into a world-class example of innovative, eco-asset management.

2020: In Q1, the Town began a pilot project with the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) on Coastal Resilience. The goal of the project is to understand the relative role of coastal infrastructure in providing protection from storm surges and coastal erosion, and in doing so, develop a replicable approach for other local governments.

The Town is also partnering with MNAI on its Source to Sea Project, which will consider natural assets within the entire watershed of the Gibsons Aquifer.

On July 7, 2020, the Town of Gibsons announced that it had been awarded a total of $955,000 by the Province of BC ($382,000) and the Government of Canada ($573,000) to construct an additional storm water pond at White Tower Park. The expansion will enable the stormwater ponds to service 47.7 hectares of land, and help address long-term erosion and water quality impacts of past development on Charman Creek. It will also add to the Town’s outdoor recreational space, as the site will be fully landscaped with native plant species and include walking trails, split rail fencing, flora and information signage.

Also in July 2020, the Town filled the newly created position of Natural Asset Technician. The person in this role is responsible for the collection of data for our natural assets, as well as planning for the maintenance and monitoring of these assets.

On September 18, 2020, the Town adopted a Tree Preservation Bylaw to help protect the community’s tree cover. The bylaw is the first step in the development of an Urban Forest Plan, which will act as an asset management plan for the Town’s trees, forests, greenspace and related abioticbiotic and cultural components.

On September 23, 2020, Gibsons won the Excellence in Asset Management category of the 2020 Union of BC Municipalities Community Excellence Awards. The Community Excellence awards showcase municipalities and regional districts that demonstrate excellence in meeting the purposes of local government. Gibsons’ eco-assets strategy was recognized for excellence in asset management, an award given for “comprehensive, integrated, innovative and effective approaches to the management of new and existing infrastructure.” The awards are designed to profile promising practices and to create successful pathways and incentives for others to follow.

2021: In early 2021, the Town submitted a proposal to install surface water monitoring stations in the four creeks (Chaster, Charman, Gibsons and Soames) within the Gibsons Aquifer watershed. Monitoring the flows in these creeks will provide valuable data for the Source to Sea project, as well as the planned update of the Aquifer Mapping Study.