The Snaw-Naw-As First Nation’s hopes to have a portion of federal government property converted into a national park appear to be dashed.
The Department of National Defence responded to the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation’s request to have a section of land near the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges facility turned into a national park.
The proposed national park would have encompassed a large area of green space in Nanoose Bay that extends east from the CFMETR facility to Wallis Point, a patch of land that overlooks the Strait of Georgia.
Ashley Lemire, senior communications advisor with the DND said the creation of a national park on the CFMTER site was not a viable option.
“The Canadian Armed Forces at Nanoose Bay mandate that a controlled security framework be maintained for the entire site, including Wallis Point and that this will continue to apply for the foreseeable future,” she said.
However, the department is willing to discuss other land-use options with the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation and wants to continue discussions.
“[The] DND is open to exploring other possibilities that could enhance current arrangements for the [Snaw-Naw-As] First Nation to access this property,” Lemire said, in an e-mailed statement.
Brent Edwards, chief of the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation, said he wasn’t surprised.
“It’s easier to say no than to actually make something happen,” he said. “We’re just going to keep hammering them because they are not using that property and there is not much public in and around our territory.”
He said a fence would help solve the department’s security concerns.
“They are not using that property and all it would take is a fence across a piece of that property for the public to be able to enjoy,” he said.
The Snaw-Naw-As First Nation is now asking the DND for marine access to Wallis Point and have support from the District of Lantzville councillors, who voted last week to write a letter to the department stating their support for the First Nation’s latest request.
Edwards said the land around the CFMETR facility was once a popular camping and hunting area for the First Nation.
He also said the public used to be allowed to access Wallis Point by water until the 1990s, adding that he believes the surrounding communities would welcome some kind of access to the site.
“What we are trying to do is start a discussion and to get some momentum going to support this,” Edwards said. “We think it is something that not just people in our community, but people in the surrounding communities will support.”