Linley Valley becomes bigger place to play

Parkland protection was foremost in many people’s minds this past spring as the City of Nanaimo moved to purchase a huge chunk of land.

Three-and-a-half-year-old Lincoln White and seven-year-old Ava White commune with nature at Linley Valley Cottle Lake Park while out for a walk with their family earlier this month.

Three-and-a-half-year-old Lincoln White and seven-year-old Ava White commune with nature at Linley Valley Cottle Lake Park while out for a walk with their family earlier this month.

Nanaimo’s natural beauty is here to stay.

Parkland protection was foremost in many people’s minds this past spring as the City of Nanaimo moved to purchase a huge chunk of land to expand Linley Valley Cottle Lake Park.

If all the sales go through, 91 hectares will be added to the park, more than doubling its size.

“It’s a beautiful piece of land,” said Mayor John Ruttan. “I’m just personally very excited. I think it’s a great acquisition.”

The park made headlines in recent weeks, but the project actually represents two decades of work.

Preserving Linley Valley has been an initiative of Nanaimo and Area Land Trust since the mid-’90s.

“When we were asked by someone from the city, ‘How much of this valley do you really think you want to save? We said, ‘All of it,’” recalled Gail Adrienne, executive director of NALT.

The city, with help from the land trust, purchased Linley Valley Cottle Lake Park in 2003, and then in 2010 the Province of B.C. designated an adjacent parcel as protected coastal Douglas fir habitat.

Now, these additional properties bring the sum to more than 240 hectares of continuous preserved green space in the valley.

“All of these things have been one leading to another and it’s very nice to see,” said Adrienne.

City council voted 8-1 in favour of proceeding with the recent property deals, which would add up to $7.6 million.

The mayor said the muncipality needed to seize the opportunity to preserve the land now, with real estate development advancing on other areas of the valley.

“It’s the last large woodland-wetland wild area. We have a lot of parks in Nanaimo, but they’re not like wilderness parks,” said Joanne Jonas-McRae of Save Linley Valley West, a citizens’ group that petitioned for the cause for three and a half years. “This is why [people] come here. They don’t come here to have more subdivisions.”

Jonas-McRae walks the trails often. She sees dog walkers, families, picnickers and bird watchers.

Joggers and mountain bikers also take to the trails, and of course, countless non-humans. Dozens of species of birds have been counted in the area, as well as beavers, deer, squirrels, rabbits, frogs and cougars.

Some of the parkland property sales will take a few months to finalize, and the city will take possession of the land piece by piece, with the last sale expected to close around the end of November. A public park planning process likely wouldn’t start until 2015, said Richard Harding, the city’s director of parks and recreation.

City councillors, when discussing the parkland purchase, called it the last undeveloped green space in Nanaimo, an iconic park and a Central Park.

However people view it, they can take heart knowing now that at Linley Valley Cottle Lake, they’ll always have a place to play.

“We’re totally thankful to the City of Nanaimo for coming on board with this,” Jonas-McRae said. “I think it’s the most wonderful thing they’ve ever done.”

sports@nanaimobulletin.com