More than 100 people turned out to an open house on a master plan for 1 Port Drive, hosted by the City of Nanaimo. FILE PHOTO/News Bulletin

More than 100 people turned out to an open house on a master plan for 1 Port Drive, hosted by the City of Nanaimo. FILE PHOTO/News Bulletin

Nanaimo residents share views on future of waterfront property

The City of Nanaimo hosted an open house for the 1 Port Drive master plan on Wednesday

An ocean development centre and a dock for Protection Islanders interested several residents who turned out to see a budding master plan for Nanaimo’s south downtown waterfront.

The City of Nanaimo hosted an open house on Wednesday to draw in residents’ ideas and feedback for a master plan on 1 Port Drive, a document that will guide the future of the city-owned property on the south downtown waterfront.

The city reports 145 people turned out to the event, where people could comment on options from a transit hub to access and land-use options, like where a potential ocean discovery centre, green space and residential development could go. Proponents of the ocean discovery centre were also on hand to speak to residents.

Some comments posted on information boards included those for and against a transit hub on the property, requests for access for Protection Islanders and thoughts about restoring the trestle.

Protection Island resident Debra Weikum sees land in the process of change and wants to see something that’s dynamic for the city. She said she loves the idea of an ocean discovery centre and having activities on the property, and would also like to see a dock for Protection Islanders and others who might want to come to the area for events like at the discovery centre or a farmers’ market.

“A transit hub and if there’s parking here, wow, would it ever benefit people on Protection Island for access to the rest of our city because right now we don’t have that kind of access,” said Weikum, who also called it the perfect place to not have to deal with the port authority or private marinas anymore.

Bev Carter, also from Protection Island, said Nanaimo council and others in town don’t realize how big re-provisioning in Nanaimo is to boaters, who come in to get fuel, groceries, go to liquor stores and bookstores but can’t get at the docks because there’s no place to temporarily tie up.

“Most of all this has to be a public place. We don’t want a hockey arena, or things that are going to take up the whole area and a parking lot,” she said of 1 Port Drive.

Rhonda Irving was at the open house because she said she felt it was important to see what the plans were in light of the “fiasco” with the event centre and what else was being planned that was going to be a better alternative. She’s generally in favour of what’s being proposed and likes the idea of the ocean discovery centre in particular, she said.

“It’s sort of like having the aquarium in Stanley Park. It’s something for people to see and do when they are there and it’s just a bit more of a draw to bring people to the waterfront,” she said.

Greg Barker said the south downtown waterfront lands represent a great opportunity to develop many new facilities that would benefit the community and citizens of Nanaimo. He’s keen and supportive of proposals for the waterfront walkway and development of the ocean discovery centre, which would be a “huge attraction” to tourists and unique, he said. He’d also like to see statements in the plan about allocating some of the residential land for affordable housing and consideration of a street car line as part of the transit service on the waterfront to link Port Place Shopping Centre with the cruise ship terminal.

Bruce Anderson, the city’s manager of community and cultural planning, said the city is exploring concepts and options that would help it put a plan together for the area. Feedback will help inform the draft plan which the public will also be able to comment on.

At the beginning of the four-hour open house, Anderson saw around 50 people which he said was very positive.

“Interest in this waterfront and this site is very strong,” said Anderson, who thinks there’s interest in seeing change on the waterfront, more access to it and more use by the public.

The public can still take part in an online survey for the master plan until July 10 at The open house information boards are also on the website.