Editorial: Fairgrounds could change

While we’re at the Vancouver Island Exhibition this weekend (Aug. 19-21), it’s worth thinking about what we want for Beban Park.

As the saying goes, everyone loves a fair.

But how about the fairgrounds? There are some different visions for Beban Park, and while we’re at the Vancouver Island Exhibition this weekend (Aug. 19-21), it’s worth thinking about what we want at the park now and in the future.

A lot of people are putting a lot of thought into Beban and its potential. The City of Nanaimo adopted a master plan for the park last spring, but it was mostly a framework to allow for any number of different improvements, interpretations and new ideas. And there’s been no shortage of ideas. The VIEX and five other organizations have put forward a redevelopment plan for the centre of Beban that would include an agricultural complex, an indoor farmers’ market and a First Nations cultural centre. The city’s park master plan suggests a ‘grand avenue’ through the centre of the park with permanent vendors and food trucks. Other ideas include greenhouses, a sports surface and an amphitheatre.

The VIEX makes a relatively dusty and drab part of the park into a colourful and lively place for a few days every summer, and it gives us notions of what Beban could be. With its size, location, recreation focus and the amenities it already possesses, it should be a community gathering place. But that still leaves a lot of room for interpretation. The park’s master planning process included consultations with more than 25 stakeholder groups, but the list of activities that take place there is a lot longer than that.

The city asked – and continues to ask – residents for their feedback about the park. City council seems to like the proposal that’s on the table, or else it wouldn’t have put it out there for public consultation.

So since we’re going to be at the fair anyway this weekend, maybe we should think about what brings us to Beban and what would bring us back.