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Committee recommending that RDN study a potential Nanaimo River park system

Nanaimo directors make motion related to protecting river and enhancing recreational access
A Regional District of Nanaimo committee is recommending that the RDN look into possible development of a Nanaimo River park system. (News Bulletin file)

The Regional District of Nanaimo will take a look at the idea of a ‘park system’ along the Nanaimo River.

Ben Geselbracht and Erin Hemmens, RDN directors from Nanaimo, introduced a motion at the Feb. 1 regional parks and trails select committee, seeking to create what they referred to as a “Nanaimo River park system.”

The river supports endangered fish species, including five Pacific salmon species, supplies City of Nanaimo with drinking water and supports Snuneymuxw First Nation, the motion stated, and protecting and enhancing the system’s ecological and hydrological integrity and recreational public access are key priorities.

The directors are asking for a study analyzing two or more hectares of land bordering the river. Geselbracht told the News Bulletin the study would examine what land is “under immediate, impending ecological threat,” as well as that which has high regional park potential “in terms of recreational value.” The RDN would examine what it could afford in a 10-15 year period and what land could be acquired through potential partnerships with governments and other organizations, such as land trusts, he said.

“This area’s been on the radar for the RDN for a long time, but there’s always this knee-jerk reaction when something’s under threat. Either it’s going to be logged or turned into a subdivision and we just want to … have proactive measures in place to establish what a Nanaimo River park system would be,” said Geselbracht.

Mosaic Forest Management manages land along the river, including a popular swimming area known as Red Gate, and there is logging happening in the area.

Geselbracht said Red Gate is “an area that has incredibly high public use and of high value to Nanaimo and regional residents” and said the area is of interest for the RDN.

“I think the regional district’s intentions are pretty clear on wanting to preserve parkland along the Nanaimo River,” said Geselbracht. “And we’re always open for those type of conversations and it comes down to the decision is on the private landholders, Mosaic.”

Tanya Taylor, who started a petition to preserve Red Gate last summer, said there has been much support and it is used as much as any park in the city. She was hopeful the area would be preserved, but is happy the RDN is considering a park system plan.

“It’s unfortunate and heartbreaking that harvest at Red Gate has already taken place, however we’re very hopeful that it’s going to be the last harvest of that area,” said Taylor.

In an e-mail, Mosaic said Red Gate harvesting is scheduled to be completed by March, after which time “silviculture activities to reforest the site will begin,” with two seedlings planted for every tree harvested.

In terms of the park system plan, Mosaic said it encourages the RDN to engage early on land acquisition interests, and to work closely with the Snuneymuxw First Nation, particularly in relation to acquisitions along the Nanaimo River.

“Roughly 70 per cent of the river can be accessed without travelling through Mosaic property, with the majority of the downstream sections closer to Nanaimo completely outside our management,” it said.

The motion will be forwarded to the RDN board for further consideration at its Feb. 22 meeting.

RELATED: Residents ask RDN to protest Nanaimo River swimming hole

READ ALSO: Best of City – Nanaimo River just right for summer swims

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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