Kayakers paddle by Newcastle Island.

Kayakers paddle by Newcastle Island.

Newcastle Island park plan needs reflection

NANAIMO – Consultant suggested business opportunities for Newcastle Island.

The city, Snuneymuxw and B.C. Parks need to take time to reflect on work done with a new business plan for Newcastle Island, according to Andy Macdonald, parks and protection areas section head for B.C. Parks.

A new business plan for the provincial marine park, released several months ago, pitches opportunities for a welcome centre to canoe tours and a Snuneymuxw-operated ferry service.

Snuneymuxw councillor Douglas White III, however, has said it misses the mark on resolving two of the most critical issues for the island: access and cultural opportunities. It suggests increasing ferry rates from $9 round trip for adults to $12 over a five-year period, which White said would make it inaccessible.

Macdonald said the business plan tried to look at types of services or development that could be considered while ensuring there’s financial feasibility to support whatever is built or done and lays out potential options for Snuneymuxw First Nation’s consideration. It’s about business opportunities for the Snuneymuxw, he said, and done in partnership with the nation from start to finish.

Macdonald said they haven’t heard formally about how Snuneymuxw feels about the plan, and the three parties – the city, Snuneymuxw and B.C. Parks – haven’t yet sat down and discussed potential next steps, something the plan provides guidance on if there’s “sufficient interest and capacity to move forward on those.”

“The business plan was just completed approximately three months ago. I think everybody just needs to take some time and read it and decide next steps,” he said. “Really, it is kind of focused on opportunities, business opportunities, linked to Snuneymuxw First Nation, whether the market is there and what are the realistic options at this point and into the future.”

On whether there’s room to redo the plan, Macdonald said two years has been spent developing a business plan with a consultant who did a lot of work so his question would be why they’d need to do another one.

The document, released by B.C. Parks, considers a key part in making the island a destination attraction is making sure the experience runs from before the visitor embarks on the ferry to the arrival on the island. It suggests refurbishing the dock to include a ticketing area and small First Nations retail display case, having distinctly-dressed SFN greeters on the dock to assist visitors in answering questions and boarding the ferry, and a SFN-operated ferry service. The first nation would have control over admission and scheduling, it shows.  Other options include an artisan village with temporary studios, canoe tours and a marine services facilities close to the Mark Bay disembarkation wharf with a small store for boater supplies like ice and groceries.