Newcastle Island near Nanaimo.

Newcastle Island near Nanaimo.

Newcastle society disbands citing lack of co-operation

NANAIMO – The Newcastle Island Society announced it will wind up amid news an effort to get historic recognition for the island fizzled.

A volunteer organization that has protected and preserved the features of Nanaimo’s Newcastle Island for 31 years will wind up early this year.

The Newcastle Island Society has announced it will fold, amid news its three-year effort to earn the island recognition as a Canadian historic landscape of significance fell flat without support from the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

The society, struck in 1985 and originally in charge of managing the island’s pavilion, is dedicated to enhancing, protecting and preserving the historical and natural features of the island and educating the public about them. Newcastle Island has a First Nations history and was also a site for coal mining and a Japanese saltery and the society wants to see it recognized as a place of cultural significance. It submitted an application to the National Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada in 2014 for recognition of the park and has won support, including from two members of a tripartite board for the island – the City of Nanaimo and B.C. Parks. But the society needed endorsement from SFN, and B.C. Parks said in a statement the SFN chose not to provide a letter of support and that no explanation was provided to it or the society.

The Newcastle society said in a press release it’s “profoundly disappointed” to learn the SFN is unwilling to support the recognition of the park as a Canadian historic landscape of significance.

It will also wind up operations and an upcoming annual general meeting in the early new year will be the end, according to society spokesman Bill Merilees.

He said the society is running out of money, feels it’s done what it can with its resources and it hasn’t identified any future projects it can be involved with because the committee managing the island is not functioning.

“We tried to replace some signs over there and upgrade some signs; we cannot do this until we have the permission of the board. The board has met only once in five years, so the management board in our eyes is just not functioning,” he said. “We’ve had no success and basically we are just going to wind up and fold our tent.”

B.C. Parks stated in its e-mail there’s a collaborative management agreement between it, SFN and the City of Nanaimo with the three parties working together on the strategic management and planning for the park and there hasn’t been a formal meeting in approximately five years. It continues to be responsible for the management of the park and works closely with SFN as the park facility operator. It also thanked the society for its efforts over the years.

A representative of Snuneymuxw First Nation could not be reached for comment.

The Newcastle society still plans to put out research on a Japanese saltery and the original coal mining town at Midden Bay, and hopes to see a forum where people can express interest and ideas around the waterfront and harbour.