Newcastle Island and all its charms are right there in Nanaimo harbour, but at the same time, just out of reach.
Snuneymuxw band councillors recently received a business plan for the park and it seems there was disappointment with the document. There are hopes of creating more cultural tourism opportunities and meaningful spaces on the island, and this recent business plan apparently proved underwhelming, suggesting a tent and increased ferry fares.
We do believe that with the right kind of investment and development, Newcastle Island possesses tourism potential. People here sometimes cite a lack of touristy activities for visitors, and we believe there is appetite for more First Nations cultural tourism. Newcastle Island has been mentioned as a prime location for a cultural interpretive centre, considering that it’s operated by the Snuneymuxw and used to be a Coast Salish fishing camp. As well, Maffeo Sutton Park is such a central gathering place for residents and visitors during summer festival season that it can provide terrific visibility for excursions to Newcastle.
Living in the Harbour City, we sometimes take the seaside for granted, but summer tourists here are happy to hop on a boat to have lunch on Protection Island, for example, and would do the same for the right draw on Newcastle.
Of course, there are those who like the park fine just the way it is and would prefer that it remain as peaceful as possible for kayak adventures and walks around the island’s trails. Probably there is a way to come up with a plan that considers all interests.
If this recent business plan wasn’t what we want for our one-of-a-kind marine park, then we’re glad it’s being scrapped. Hopefully its failure will motivate the city, the band and the province to sit down and think about what we do want for Newcastle. Because we have something special there, and it’s just across the channel.