Four-fifths of Nanaimo residents support a multimillion-dollar walkway extension project in the Departure Bay area, a city survey has found.
The City of Nanaimo recently made public concept plans to potentially construct an extension of the Harbourfront Walkway from the B.C. Ferries terminal to Departure Bay Beach, at a cost of $25-30 million, and asked for feedback.
Residents were strongly in favour, with 80 per cent indicating support compared to 15 per cent saying they don’t support the project, according to a city staff report presented at a governance and priorities committee meeting Monday, July 26.
The city received about 2,500 survey responses and more than 10,000 comments over a three-week period in June. The city staff report concluded that the feedback shows strong support from the general public, though concerns have been raised by property owners who would neighbour the walkway.
“Respondents noted a range of reasons they would like to use the Departure Bay waterfront walkway, including for exercise, access to the beach, wildlife viewing, to walk/cycle to shops/restaurants outside Departure Bay, and to socialize,” the report noted.
Some of the project priorities for survey respondents were greenery, waterfront access, separation of pedestrian and cycling paths, accessibility, lighting and seating. The most commonly expressed concerns were protection of shorelines, maintenance, active transportation enhancements, climate change considerations and waterfront access.
“The feasibility study and draft functional design for the on-beach waterfront walkway in Departure Bay has shown the concept is viable and can be constructed in a manner that will have a net-positive benefit to the marine habitat and environment,” the staff report noted.
Staff recommends that council decide this coming fall where the Harbourfront Walkway fits in with other priority capital projects. If council wishes to proceed, a referendum could follow, possibly timed to coincide with the local government election in October 2022. If long-term borrowing is approved by electors, the city could move forward with property acquisition, detailed design, permitting and grant applications in 2023 and potentially begin with tendering and constructing the walkway extension in 2024.