Better access to Newcastle Island needed

Re: Barriers to park could spell end, Reporter’s Viewpoint, June 7.

To the Editor,

Re: Barriers to park could spell end, Reporter’s Viewpoint, June 7.

The article, regarding facilities and public access to Newcastle Island Provincial Marine Park, was most timely.

The Newcastle Island Society had a table at the June 3-5 boat show, where the overwhelming consensus we received from the public was that Newcastle Island is truly a jewel and that the province of B.C. (B.C. Parks) and the City of Nanaimo are not treating this island appropriately.

The primary comments received were that ferry fares were too high and that facilities on the island were not being adequately maintained.

When regional transit can bus you from Nanaimo to Qualicum Beach for $2.25 ($4.50 return), why should it cost residents two times this to get to and from Newcastle or Protection islands, both of which are within the city? What we require is a 365-day, dependable, comparable cost, ferry service linking these destinations.

Currently there are two ferry services, plus a school district-contracted service, for students from Protection Island, operating in our harbour.

These need to be combined into a single entity.  Like the Seabus in Vancouver, it should be part of our Regional Transit System.

In 1955, Nanaimoites voted more than 60 per cent in favour to purchase Newcastle Island for a park and in 1959, by more than 85 per cent, to have it become a Provincial Marine Park.

Our society believes, based on Nanaimo’s longstanding attachment to this incredible legacy, we deserve better than we are currently receiving.

Every day, villages and hamlets offer lattés and cheap foreign-made souvenirs, but few offer a treasure comparable to Newcastle.

It’s about time we gave our heads a shake, recognize how lucky we are, and collectively step forward, demanding better public access.

Bill Merilees

Newcastle Island Society