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Nanaimo's Boat Basin redevelopment starts with dock removal

The Nanaimo Port Authority removed  an “eyesore” dock in the marina last week, marking the start of a multi-million dollar renovation.

The Nanaimo boat basin will be getting an estimated $9- to $10-million facelift by the port authority, beginning this year with the removal of the condemned and closed ‘D’ wharf.

According to Bernie Dumas, CEO of the port authority, the marina needs fixes and upgrades to help make it more profitable and after the failed attempt to lease it to the private Pacific Northwest Marine Group, the port authority will take on the job itself. Plans are still being developed in consultation with user groups, but designs could be made public in a month.

The aim will be to make the marina financially self-sufficient while providing the public with a marina for the next three decades. While it likely won’t be as flashy as what Pacific Northwest had planned, it will be “as pretty as possible” and functional, said Dumas, who adds they plan to communicate the work to the public.

“Perhaps we didn’t quite grasp the sensitivity of the marina as a result of a past project and we want to make sure what we do is acceptable,” Dumas said. “So we’ve changed our lines of communication and I think it will be good for everyone. We’ll explain our side of it a bit better.”

The Nanaimo Port Authority had been working on a 30-year lease agreement with Pacific Northwest Marina Group, which would have seen the company invest approximately $9 million into redeveloping the boat basin.

The deal fell through last year in the wake of public opposition.

People, including Save the Harbour Coalition and the Snuneymuxw First Nation, were concerned about the lack of consultation, loss of a public asset and cost challenges for commercial fishermen, who would see an increase in moorage rates.

Dumas said there was an unsuccessful attempt to attract another third-party group, before the port authority opted to finance upgrades on its own. The project is anticipated to happen in phases over a three-year period. There has already been increases to moorage rates and there are plans to include more slips.

Michelle Corfield, former spokesperson for the Save our Harbour coalition, said she is happy to see more inclusive dialogue about the redevelopment of the harbour and effort to keep redevelopment a Nanaimo-based job. She believes a third-party would have turned the marina into a “parking lot for mega yachts” and restricted public access to the docks.

“Every time I go down to the harbour it brings a sense of pride and joy to myself to know our fishermen are still there, that our people who work in and around the harbour still have jobs ... that we’ve maintained this asset for us Nanaimoites,” Corfield said.

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