A rendering of a proposed 5,500-square-foot boathouse at Long Lake. (City of Nanaimo)

City of Nanaimo planning to build new boathouse at Long Lake by 2023

$1.35-$2-million project would be used by local rowing, canoe and kayak clubs

A new boathouse is being planned for the shores of Long Lake.

The City of Nanaimo has released plans to build a boathouse at Loudon Park by 2023. The proposed 5,500-square-foot facility would become the new home for the Nanaimo Rowing Club and the Nanaimo Canoe and Kayak Club. An existing facility at Loudon Park currently used by both clubs was built in 1967.

According to a staff report, the Loudon Park boathouse would feature boat storage, a multi-purpose room, kitchen, two offices, mechanical and electrical rooms, washrooms and showers.

Staff have estimated the project to cost anywhere between $1.35 to $2 million, according to the report, which notes that architectural designs would cost $123,750 while construction costs, including geotechnical and civil engineering work, would cost between $1.22-1.9 million.

During a finance and audit committee meeting on Oct. 16, councillors voted unanimously in favour of recommending allocation of $123,750 in the 2020 financial plan for design work for the boathouse project. They also agreed to have staff work with the Long Lake Flatwater Training Centre Society, which represents the rowing and canoe and kayak clubs, and the Rotary Club of Nanaimo North on the project.

The Loudon Park Improvement Plan, which was adopted by council in 2007 and updated in 2010, calls for the replacement of the 52-year-old facility because it does not meet the needs of the padding organizations and the “community as a whole.”

During the Oct. 16 meeting, Richard Harding, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, told councillors Loudon Park was acquired by the city through amalgamation in 1975, adding that it has become an “active recreational area” for the community. He said although conceptual plans for a new boathouse have been kicked around for years, nothing has ever come of them.

“It has been in the budget for a number of years … but we just couldn’t get to a point where there was enough momentum with either the paddlers or the rowing club,” Harding said.

Harding said the conceptual plan addresses the needs of the paddling organizations and the community, adding that the upgraded washrooms and changerooms will be more accessible than they are currently.

“It is a more utilitarian structure, which meets the needs … of the community for swimming and water sports,” he said, adding that it is a merely a concept at this point and needs to go through detailed design work.

Craig Rutherford, president of the training centre society, told councillors that both the rowing and canoe and kayak club have been working together for years.

“We’ve always wanted to have a joint facility; we had ideas going back to the mid-1990s and some old plans and conceptual drawings, so this plan has been around for a long time,” he said.

Rutherford explained that the society was created in 2015 in order to develop and operate facilities that support training and operational needs of rowing and paddling sports on Long Lake as well as to create a “financial separation” between the clubs and the boathouse project. He said the current facility is aging, is too small for the needs of both organizations and prone to damage from fallen trees and theft because boats have to be stored outside.

“Nanaimo Rowing Club has had three outboard engines stolen; Nanaimo Canoe and Kayak Club had three outboard engines as well as 13 kayaks stolen,” Rutherford said.

Having a new facility, he said, would also give both clubs the ability to host bigger competitions and events.

Ed Pollie, treasurer of the Rotary Club of Nanaimo North, told councillors his club would provide the city with a donation of $100,000 toward the project and will work with other organizations to raise money. He said the club will celebrate its 50th anniversary in Nanaimo in 2022 and wanted to do something that will have a lasting impact.

“We’ve chosen to support this project for a number of very good reasons. It will result in a significant improvement to Nanaimo’s recreational infrastructure and, for us, it will provide lasting visible evidence of our contribution to the community,” he said.

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said there has been “very little” investment by the city in central and north parts of the community over the years.

“It’s time we put some money in those parts of town, instead of always the south,” she said.

Coun. Ben Geselbracht said he is “excited” about the boathouse project and impressed with the spirit of collaboration between various organizations in the city.

Questions were raised about whether councillors Ian Thorpe, Tyler Brown and Jim Turley would be in conflict if they voted on the recommendations because they are members of the Rotary Club of Nanaimo North. Sheila Gurrie, the city’s clerk, said she couldn’t provide any assurances that the councillors wouldn’t be in conflict by voting on the matter, adding that since the councillors are not Rotary board members or directors, they wouldn’t have a fiduciary or pecuniary duty or interest. She said, however, there is still the matter of perceived conflict.

Thorpe said he doesn’t believe he is in a conflict because he has no influence on the club’s fundraising decisions and is merely a regular member who is willing to raise money for the project. He said he’s supportive of the boathouse project, pointing out that it has been in the city’s plans since at least 2007.

“It is long overdue. This building is in a sad state of repair despite the city’s best efforts to keep it upgraded,” he said. “It was built in 1967, which is a long time ago. It’s so long ago that was the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup, so it is due for a change.”

Coun. Jim Turley said he’s also supportive of the project and would vote on it because he “wouldn’t get any financial reward” and neither would the club.

“I’m having a tough time believing I’m placing myself in an issue of conflict,” he said.

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said it would “be quite a stretch” if a legal opinion determined the councillors were in a conflict of interest given that the organization they’re involved with is giving money to the city for a public project.

All councillors voted in favour of the recommendations, which will need to be approved at a future regular council meeting.

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