Linley Valley Park shouldn’t be kept secret

The City of Nanaimo should expedite the public planning process for Linley Valley Cottle Lake Park.

If a tree doesn’t fall in the Linley Valley, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Trees won’t be felled in the city’s new parkland, and that’s laudable; now, let’s try to make the park more user-friendly as soon as we can. The City of Nanaimo should expedite the public planning process for Linley Valley Cottle Lake Park.

Council recently voted to spend $7.6 million to more than double the size of the park, and the property sales will proceed piecemeal between now and Nov. 30. For that reason, and also because 2014 budgeting has already been done, there won’t be any dedicated funds for park improvements until at least 2015.

Certain work will have to take place. As soon as the municipality takes ownership of new sections of land, it performs risk assessments and removes or remedies anything that’s a safety liability.

But improvements? Not until the public has had a chance to provide input, said Richard Harding, the city’s parks and recreation director, and we know that’s a drawn-out process. Let’s keep in mind the municipality is already working on other park plans, most notably for Beban Park and Harewood Centennial Park.

Since Linley Valley is the flavour of the day, should it therefore get to butt in line, so to speak?

“It might, but dollars and cents are the final issue…” said Mayor John Ruttan. “My understanding is that the plan is to develop it fairly slowly.”

I would argue that our newest parkland should be prioritized. Since current taxpayers paid for it, current residents should enjoy it. There was some debate as to whether the municipality should have undertaken long-term borrowing for the parkland, sharing the cost between this generation and the next. The city chose not to go that route, and that’s fine, as long as we get to play at our new park pretty soon.

The new properties are already de facto parkland, with trails roughed out and tamped down. There are trails, but there aren’t yet happy trails. Surely we can get to work sooner than later on minor improvements – well-defined park entrances, signs and route markers and bridges and stairs where needed.

There was already a Linley Valley park planning process less than a decade ago, and the flora and fauna there were already considered, and user groups were already consulted, and only so much has changed since then. Do we really need to collect repetitive feedback? Nobody’s asking for a paved seawall around the beaver pond, or a covered lacrosse box on the wetlands there. All users want are trails.

Gail Adrienne, executive director of Nanaimo and Area Land Trust, has been happy with the city’s treatment of the initial Linley Valley Cottle Lake Park, and would favour the same sort of work on the new park trails.

“They may need a little bit of enhancing,” she said. “Maybe you add to them or widen them or put boardwalks if you need, signage to remind people that there is sensitive ecosystem.”

Joanne Jonas-McRae of Save Linley Valley West said nothing at all needs to be done at the park, and that’s the general philosophy of users, the mayor and parks and rec.

“I don’t think there’s a burning desire to do anything major to it,” said Harding. “It’s more what it is, is the value, rather than what it can become.”

Linley Valley Cottle Lake Park doesn’t need to be an iconic park or a Central Park, as some have suggested. In a lot of ways, it’s lovely the way it is. But it shouldn’t be secret. Let’s make sure people can access this park and explore it.

And that way, when a tree doesn’t fall in Linley Valley, someone will be around to hear it, and appreciate it.