The Regional District of Nanaimo plans to make it easier and safer to get to the base of Ammonite Falls and other areas in Benson Creek Falls Regional Park.
Safer, easier access to the falls are among upgrades RDN staff and board of directors are eyeing for the park, located at the foot of Mount Benson between Jameson and the Wiegels roads.
Wendy Marshall, RDN manager of parks services, said the regional district wants to improve park access from Weigels Road, which includes upgrading the parking lot at the trail head into the park.
“That access, it’s got some bridges and stuff, but then you get to this steep ravine,” Marshall said. “So we want to upgrade the parking lot there and then put some sort of access, like stairs down there and a bridge or something. We’re looking for proposals on what we can do there, so that we can direct some of the traffic away from the Jameson Road area.”
Stairs down a steep embankment to reach the bottom of Ammonite Falls are also being proposed for the safety of park visitors and to stop erosion caused by people climbing the banks, often by clinging to ropes strung by hikers and spilling silt into Benson Creek.
“Environmentally it isn’t good, as well, so there’s two aspects, safety and sort of environmental, so we need to provide some way for people to get down,” Marshall said. “We know there are a lot of people going down and they’re not big-time hikers. They hear about it, they want to go out and then they get there and then they’re going down these ropes, which isn’t the safest.”
The upgrades were first proposed in the Benson Creek Regional Park Management Plan, which was finalized in 2014, but spending on infrastructure has been deferred until RDN staff were certain the lease from the provincial government for the land would be renewed.
“That happened this year, so now we can move forward,” Marshall said, adding the lease has been renewed for 30 years.
Actual construction of stairs and bridges won’t happen until after designs and geotechnical studies for the park have been completed, so no construction start date for the upgrades has been scheduled.
“There’s some steps that have to happen first,” Marshall said. “It could be next year or the year after. We’re also doing surveys to see where the parking lot could go on the [Weigles Road] side.”