The city has developed a new concept plan to extend the Harbourfront Walkway from Departure Bay ferry terminal to Departure Bay Beach.
The concept plans are slated to go out for public consultation later this spring, but the city’s accessibility and inclusiveness committee had a chance to look over the plans and offer feedback at a meeting Wednesday, April 28.
In 2017, city staff began developing plans for a $3.5-million, 250-metre stretch of walkway in the Cilaire area that it viewed as a “quick win,” saying at the time that the rest of that walkway connection, from White Eagle Terrace to Battersea Road, would cost another $14 million.
The city had been looking at an elevated walkway, but Bill Corsan, the city’s director of community development, said at Wednesday’s meeting that engineers recommended a different approach.
“They came back to us and said while an elevated option is an interesting choice, it’s actually probably better to do an on-beach option, using a green-shores approach: using the existing beach, but restoring it from an environmental habitat perspective,” Corsan said.
The city has studied wave modelling, coastal erosion and slope instability and factored projected sea-level rise into its designs. Corsan said there are environmental considerations, for example, if some of the beach gets covered up by a walkway, what’s the trade-off?
“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has a no-net-loss principle and when you look at it, Departure Bay, unfortunately, has lost a lot of habitat value over the years,” he said. “This is a very interesting opportunity to come in and actually restore the beach.”
The walkway would include separated pedestrian and bicycle pathways, seating, lighting and viewpoints and would be partially protected by a series of rocky islands called ‘headlands,’ built to break up waves.
Corsan said the city will be engaging with Snuneymuxw First Nation and will need a permit from the DFO, lease licence and right-of-way from the provincial government and approvals from B.C. Ferries, Transport Canada and the Regional District of Nanaimo. Thirty property owners along the Cilaire bluff have riparian rights to the water and will need to give permission, too.
Corsan said if city council eventually supports the plans, the project will likely have to go to referendum.
The accessibility and inclusiveness committee’s discussion included questions about washrooms and parking and Corsan said those will be two important aspects of the project moving forward.