In a move that promises to significantly enhance the outdoor recreation industry in Nanaimo, city councillors have greenlit an investment of over CA$10 million in provincial funding for downtown and park improvement projects.
This decision, made during a finance committee meeting on Wednesday, October 18, is a testament to the city’s commitment to fostering a vibrant outdoor hospitality and recreation environment.
The projects, presented by Laura Mercer, the city’s director of finance, are set to transform the face of Nanaimo’s outdoor spaces. With the province’s generous CA$1-billion grant, from which Nanaimo secured over CA$16 million, the city is poised to make substantial improvements that will benefit both residents and visitors alike.
One of the most anticipated projects is the Commercial Street re-design, with a budget of CA$4 million. This initiative is expected to rejuvenate the downtown area, making it more appealing and accessible to those seeking outdoor adventures in the heart of the city.
Maffeo Sutton Park, a popular spot for both locals and tourists, is set to receive new washrooms with an allocation of CA$3 million. This upgrade addresses the current state of the facilities, which Coun. Ian Thorpe described as “quite disgraceful on our waterfront.” The new washrooms will not only enhance the user experience but also elevate the park’s status as a prime location for outdoor activities.
Furthermore, an investment of CA$2.5 million has been earmarked to purchase land for a south end community centre. This centre will serve as a hub for community gatherings, events, and recreational activities, further solidifying Nanaimo’s reputation as a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.
Westwood Lake Park, another gem in Nanaimo’s crown, is set to undergo a transformation with Phase 2 of its improvements. With a budget of CA$1.2 million, the park will see the construction of a new amenities building equipped with accessible washrooms. Additionally, the old washroom building will find a new purpose, potentially serving as a storage facility or for other community uses.
While these projects are at the forefront, several other potential initiatives are on the horizon. These include a water feature at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre, enhancements to Loudon Park, and the much-discussed lighting for the E&N Trailway. The latter, in particular, has been championed by Coun. Ben Geselbracht, who sees it as a vital link connecting downtown, VIU, the hospital, and the north end.
However, not all councillors were in complete agreement on the prioritization of projects, a report from Nanaimo News Bulletin highlighted. Geselbracht, for instance, voiced his preference for renovating the existing washroom building at Westwood Lake and incorporating more active transportation enhancements.
Art Groot, the director of facilities and parks maintenance, provided clarity on some of the projects, especially regarding the washroom facilities at Maffeo Sutton Park and Westwood Lake Park. He highlighted that the former would be a more extensive structure, accommodating more fixtures, while the latter would be on par with the facilities at Neck Point Park.
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog expressed his unwavering support for the staff’s recommendations. Addressing the E&N Trailway lighting suggestion, he remarked, “It would enhance it and I would normally support it if we had piles of money, but at the end of the day, somebody can carry their own light.”
Nanaimo’s decision to invest heavily in its outdoor spaces is a clear indication of its dedication to the outdoor recreation industry. As these projects come to fruition, they will undoubtedly position Nanaimo as a premier destination for all things outdoors, benefiting campground, glamping, and RV park owners, as well as outdoor hospitality operators.