Gailbird Robinson sat on a lawn chair on the Sway-a-Lana Lagoon beach and watched as her grandchildren splashed in the water.
She’s new to Nanaimo but has already found something to love – the waterfront.
“I don’t think you can put a value on it. It’s priceless,” she said. “When I sit down here, I feel like I love Nanaimo. It’s so peaceful.”
Plans for change are in the works for Nanaimo’s waterfront, considered the city’s busiest park.
Residents are expected to get a glimpse into physical updates considered for the green space this fall when the city releases its updated Maffeo Sutton Park Improvement Plan, including ideas stemming from a proposed Hilton hotel. The city has also signed a letter of intent to partner on the first expansion of the promenade and purchased 10.8-hectares of the south industrial waterfront.
“The biggest thing we did is we actually bought 1 Port Dr. That was a pretty significant commitment to the waterfront right there,” said Bill Corsan, the city’s manager of real estate. “Then I think we’ve been working with the tenants down on the Newcastle Channel on the walkway pieces and we’ve been looking at those park spaces so there’s been a lot going on.”
Waterfront enhancement became a priority two years ago in the city’s strategic plan, which highlighted the potential for an updated park improvement plan and new sections of harbourfront trail.
According to Corsan, the purchase of the south industrial waterfront has redirected the city’s energy.
“Suddenly we have this huge piece of land that we have lots of work to do on as opposed to before that, when the plan was written, the intention was to kind of work on a waterfront trail essentially,” he said. “Now I think it’s just a matter of going back and bringing the two together.”
Corsan said work on establishing a new Departure Bay trail connection would be up to the next council.
On the south downtown waterfront, an environmental analysis has started to look at what areas need to be remediated and there are plans to demolish an old pallet yard on the site in October to help pave the way for redevelopment.
“Obviously like Rome, it can’t be built overnight,” said Mayor John Ruttan. “We are still looking at the pieces and trying to decide just exactly how the pieces fit and how to expand on it.”