Trail networks, expanded park among visions for City of Nanaimo land

NANAIMO – Fifty-two hectares of the former Greater Nanaimo Water District Lands on Nanaimo Lakes Road have park values.

Pushing the boundaries of Colliery Dam Park into city-owned acreage next door is on the wish list of one Nanaimo citizens group, which believes the addition would compensate for previous losses at the park.

“It’s been encroached, there’s no getting around it. It’s taken a beating over the last number of years,” said Jeff Solomon, president of the Colliery Dam Park Preservation Society,  listing a pipeline that went through Colliery Dam Park, a “huge chunk” taken out along Nanaimo Lakes Road for the new city reservoir and the lower dam spillway.

Having the water district lands as park would be a “great boon” to that area of Nanaimo and establish a green corridor that would be there forever, he said.

The City of Nanaimo plans to reach out to the public about a vision for 97 hectares of civic land along Nanaimo Lakes Road as well as speak with stakeholders such as the society and Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club about their dreams for the property and how they’d work with the city on improvements.

According to a city report presented at a council meeting Monday on opportunities for 84 hectares south of the parkway, 52 hectares have park values. Four areas other areas, spanning 32 hectares and including the former Greater Nanaimo Water district offices are near the former No. 1 reservoir, can be considered for non-park uses.

However, the report says there’s limited development potential because the land is zoned agricultural rural residential, restricting lots to a hectare in size. The land is also outside the urban containment boundary, which the municipality defines as the line between areas of the city intended for urban growth and those protected for rural values.

Preservation society directors see the water district lands best used to expand Colliery Dam Park, reasoning that it would cost nothing, it’s a good example of second-growth forest and contains spectacular bluffs, according to an e-mail from Solomon.

Mark Perdue, landowner liaison director for Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club, said in other communities, there’s nice infrastructure of trail facilities, which tend to be on community property so amenities, such as a bike wash station or a washroom, can be built around it.

“We think that’s a really good area for that because it has the Colliery dam below that and if you duck under the highway you can get through that area and onto other trail networks, like the Extension Ridge Trail,” he said.

The club has already worked on a plan for a trail network and mountain bike skills area. The lands are a place where modest facilities can be developed to make mountain bikers feel like they’re welcome in community parks, Perdue said.

“There’s probably been a lot of different visions for that area presented,” he said. “I guess the most important thing is that it stays green.”