Editorial: Boathouse must be a value-add

It has to be a space that we don’t have, that we need, that we want, and that gets used.

We’re justifiably proud of Nanaimo harbour, so much so that we style ourself the Harbour City.

So a community boathouse next to the Brechin boat ramp sounds like something well-suited to that part of town.

A group called the Nanaimo Boathouse Society goes before the City of Nanaimo’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission today (May 15) to gain support to try to advance the $5.1-million project, planned on municipal property. The group would fundraise construction costs itself, then turn over the building to the city for ownership. Operations and maintenance could cost $200,000 a year.

Newcastle Channel is a great place to paddle, with natural beauty, calm seas and tourist attractions such as a marine provincial park, a floating pub and access to the boat basin and boardwalk. We should absolutely be trying to find ways to get more people out on the water because it really is one of the best places to be in Nanaimo.

A community boathouse is a value-add to the harbour, but to what extent? That’s something the municipality will need to consider. City staff could probably develop its own plan for the property – think a better-looking Brechin boat ramp, with a couple of amenities and upgrades. Would this achieve some of the same goals as a community boathouse? Would it be any more affordable?

The proposed boathouse benefits dragon boating. It’s a growing sport and one that has already proven it can inject serious tourism dollars into our local economy, but it’s fair to wonder about the sport’s continued growth potential in Nanaimo. Taxpayers can’t afford to subsidize a shed for vessels most of us will never paddle.

The boathouse operations will have to be self-sustaining, or pretty close. It has to be a multi-use facility. It has to be a space that we don’t have, that we need, that we want, and that gets used. It has to bring people to our harbour, and where then? Why, anywhere they wish to go.