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Departure Bay beach to ferry terminal ranked as top priority in walkway survey

City of Nanaimo releases survey results, public feedback on Nanaimo’s waterfront walkway
Nearly 2,000 people responded to a City of Nanaimo survey about the waterfront walkway. (NEWS BULLETIN file)

The City of Nanaimo should nail down a waterfront walkway from Departure Bay beach to the ferry terminal first, according to respondents of a city survey.

Nearly 2,000 people responded to a survey about the Nanaimo waterfront walkway, with overwhelming support to build a continuous trail and a theme for the city to avoid delays and get working on it right away.

Thirty-one per cent believe first on the ‘to do’ list should be to develop the walkway from the ferry terminal to Departure Bay, a span that includes some of the project’s most complex challenges with riparian, archaeological, geotechnical and environmental considerations, a city story map shows. Twenty-two per cent want to see trail developed or upgraded from B.C. Ferries terminal to the Millstone River and 16 per cent, the walkway from the south downtown waterfront to the Nanaimo River estuary.

Eighty-nine per cent of respondents want to see new sections of the walkway built before existing ones are upgraded, and of trail connections that could be done next year, 25 per cent of respondents want an alternate alignment around the Nanaimo Shipyard.

The trail can’t go through the shipyard until it redevelops and it’s uncertain as to when that will happen, said city real estate manager Bill Corsan, adding the proposal is a workaround that’s inexpensive, provides better signage and makes it a little safer for people to use. A potential walkway section referred to as Northfield Creek – from the ferry terminal to Beach Estates Park – had 24 per cent support, followed by sections called Asia Pacific Yacht Club, 1 Port Dr. and the boat basin.

“[The survey] gives us an idea of how people are using the walkway as it stands, it gives us a good sense of people’s priorities, which is important and we will be able to use that as we get into more of the design work,” Corsan said.

The city has hired consultant Urban Systems to build an implementation plan for a continuous 13-kilometre walkway from Departure Bay to the Nanaimo estuary and come up with designs for five sections of trail that could be done next year. The public process has involved the survey and open houses, attended by approximately 750 people last month.

Corsan calls a plan a fundamental first step and said until now it has been unclear as to where the city should start.

“When you are building a plan like this with this much community feedback we really do have a plan that kind of reflects people’s priorities, the community’s priorities, and it’s going to be tempered with some reality in terms of the challenges and costs,” he said.

An invite-only design workshop happens June 22. The general public can see the results of the exercise and speak with participants the same day from 5-7 p.m. at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. To see the survey, which includes comments from the open houses, visit