Equestrian group raises concerns with proposed changes to Beban Park

NANAIMO – Beban Park master plan met with disagreement from users.

The Nanaimo Equestrian Association is raising concerns with the new Beban Park master plan and its re-imagined exhibition park, which members say is ‘too busy’ and has elements that don’t work together.

More than 200 people turned out to an open house Wednesday to view the master plan for one of Nanaimo’s largest recreational parks. The vision has been in the works for the past 12 months and showcases new additions like a bike skills park and transformed exhibition park. According to the draft plan, the exhibition space could become the heart of the park with a grand avenue of orchard trees and shaded seating, a stage and amphitheatre and multi-purpose buildings.

But members of the equestrian community say the re-imagined area is missing features they’d like to see and point out that not all the amenities work together.

Carolyn Stinka, a director with the association, calls the design “too busy” with the city trying to make the space for everybody, while Lesley Coultish, president of the Nanaimo Equestrian Association, points out it’s missing things they’d like to see, such as fencing around the equestrian area for safety and liability reasons, and a large parking area for events.

She also points out that the plan shows their riding rings will be considerably far away from new horse barns but next door to an amphitheatre and stage.

“Let’s hope there’s no rock and roll going on. It’s a huge safety issue,” she said, adding while some features of the plan are wonderful, they have to work with events that will take place on site and with consideration of users. “Having a lot of congestion and busyness isn’t necessarily going to work all together.”

City parks and open spaces planner Kirsty MacDonald told the News Bulletin the focus is more on pedestrian connections and basic land-use than any specifics and there’s no commitment to construct any of the features shown in the plan. Details would be worked out in the future and anything done over the span of the 20-year plan would happen in phases and with user groups.

“So it may be that in the end [with] the conflict management, we change what’s happening in that core opportunity area at the park. It’s just too early to say until we have that second open house,” MacDonald said.

The next open house is at the Beban Park Social Centre Saturday (Oct. 4), from noon to 4 p.m. People can also view the plan online and send comments to kirsty.macdonald@nanaimo.ca.