Four-year-old Adalaine Warkentin crouches on the beach at Neck Point Park as she picks up rocks in the hunt for crabs.
Her mother Bonnie holds her plastic bucket, filled with a few broken crab and sea shells Adalaine has found.
This is the first place near the ocean the two visited when they moved to the mid Island.
“It’s beautiful,” said Bonnie. “I love that it’s quiet. It’s away from the city and yet right beside the city.”
Neck Point is a 15-hectare waterfront park with a backdrop of Shack Island and the Strait of Georgia.
Residents named it the Best Place to Take Guests and Best Place to Have a Picnic in the Best of the City survey this year.
The park draws people with its winding forest trails, rocky beaches and its playful ‘village’ of gnome homes.
But Neck Point wasn’t always a park.
In it’s earliest days, the Snuneymuxw used to fish and collect food resources in the area, which was rich in salmon, ling cod and rock fish, and families had cabins in the 1930s along Finn, Indian and Sunset beaches, according to the city’s Neck Point master plan.
There were also development dreams for the property, including a 450-unit residential development in 1993 that council had given preliminary support for.
Residents mobilized to create the Neck Point Park Society and eventually persuaded city and provincial authorities to buy and preserve the area. One of the trails is named after Annie Clarke, a member of the society, the city master plan says.
In 2009, the park further expanded with the purchase of another 1.25 hectares.
Paul and Nancy Byne, residents of Nanaimo, stopped to sit at a park bench during a walk along the trails on a sunny Friday afternoon.
Nancy calls the park “one of Nanaimo’s treasures” and Paul said the seascapes are phenomenal.
“It’s right at your doorstep,” he said.