Ian Thorpe

Ian Thorpe

Improvement options explored for Maffeo Sutton Park

NANAIMO – The city plans to release draft of Maffeo Sutton Park Improvement Plan this month.

Nanaimo’s most popular waterfront park could get a refresh.

The City of Nanaimo is about to release draft sketches of a re-imagined Maffeo Sutton Park in the lead up to an updated improvement plan, with ideas that include an urban wildlife refuge, an expanded beach, parkade and piers.

Now it will be up to residents to decide what sticks and what gets tossed on the cutting room floor.

A forward-looking plan for the waterfront park was first crafted in 2008, but just three years later the city was back at the drawing board after it added 0.9 hectares of land originally slated for condos.

There are other reasons for the review as well, according to Kirsty MacDonald, the city’s parks and open space planner, who points to the need for capital improvements on features like the playground and the changing context of the park.

Nanaimo has a proposed Hilton hotel, the potential redevelopment of the Howard Johnson and the pending transfer of land to the Snuneymuxw First Nation at the corner of Cliff Street and Comox Road.

“At this stage we’re playing around with ideas,” said MacDonald, who’s been looking at possible additions to the park.

“We’re not looking to do any huge projects that we don’t have to do. It’s just as things are breaking down, what opportunities do we have … what could this be to make it better rather than just replacing what’s there and rebuilding it as it is?”

Three new looks for the waterfront destination will be pitched to residents this month, with a range of features and even a switch in location for park staples like the children’s playground. It also shows the potential to reclaim asphalt parking as green space, an urban wildlife refuge near the Millstone River, expanded beachfront and piers to help increase access to the water. Changes would be made over the next 15 years.

“I’m quite excited about these general options that we’re presenting,” said Ian Thorpe, city councillor and chairman of the parks and recreation commission.

The park has gone from an industrial site in the ’60s to a jewel in the community, he said, and the city wants to make sure it’s maintained, developed and tweaked as people would like to see it.

Ideas will be presented online at http://cnan.ca/maffeosutton this month and at open house events. People will get to weigh in on the options they like best and spending priorities. A final plan is expected to go to council this fall.