Westwood Lake is a destination for beach-goers, anglers, walkers, joggers and mountain bikers, and the city has some ideas about ways to make the park better.
Nanaimo city councillors, at a finance and audit committee meeting last week, voted to consider $750,000-$1 million in amenity improvements at Westwood Lake Park when they begin budgeting for 2022-26 in the fall.
Richard Harding, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, told the finance committee that $50,000 was budgeted last year for conceptual designs, and “we’re at a stage now that we’d like to go out and test that with the public to get some more feedback.”
A staff report noted that draft concepts include increased parking, new or renovated washrooms, a new playground, expansion of the first beach, additional picnic and special event areas, and more.
The report mentioned that community feedback was collected as part of the ReImagine Nanaimo master planning process, and members of Westwood’s neighbourhood association and user groups were consulted. Some of the input included support for maintaining the park’s natural areas, addressing over-use concerns, considering structures for events and group use, improving accessibility, replacing the playground, adding picnic tables and other seating and shade areas, and more.
Westwood Lake was dedicated as a park in 1957 and Harding said “nothing’s substantially changed” since then. Mayor Leonard Krog said the park is “being loved to death.”
“Improving and increasing access to waterfront areas has been a community priority identified in parks, recreation and culture master plans since 1994,” the report noted. “Acquisition of land adjacent to Westwood Lake Park has also been a focus and several additional park parcels have been acquired over the years by purchase and through the development process.”
Councillors, at the meeting, were prioritizing a list of future projects and Coun. Erin Hemmens said in her mind, Westwood Lake Park was a “clear winner” as a project that will provide a return on investment.
“Westwood Lake is seeing more use every year. It’s also a key in terms of sports tourism with the growing mountain bike community,” she said.
Coun. Ian Thorpe also spoke in favour of looking at park improvements during the next budgeting cycle.
“This is a key recreational facility and I think improvements are needed there badly,” he said.
Harding suggested improvements at the park would be phased so that sections would remain open, and said “key gateway amenities” like parking would be addressed first.
“It’s never fun to go out and plan a parking lot. Everyone sings Joni Mitchell to me whenever we talk about it,” Harding said. “But … people are still driving up there in droves, so until we find another way to get there, people want them.”
He said the city would like to engage with the public over the summer when Westwood Lake is busiest, and said the concepts will also be put to the city’s inclusiveness and environment committees.
Staff reported that the money for park amenity improvements could come from reserves.