The City of Parksville announced on Fri., Feb. 23, it is closing the Ermineskine parklands, outlined in red, until further notice. Signage has been placed at trail entrances into the lands, which the city purchased in an agreement announced last fall. — Image submitted by City of Parksville

City of Parksville closes Erminskine parklands to public

Liability risk assessment underway on recently purchased property

The City of Parksville announced last week the closure of part of its recently acquired Ermineskin parkland property due to liability concerns.

The city announced the closure Friday, Feb. 23, following a recommendation from the Municipal Insurance Association of British Columbia, the city stated in a news release. The property will remain closed to the public until further notice, and there is no timeline on when this area will be reopened.

“Parksville staff will be addressing any items which may be considered as a risk to the public,” the city release stated. “Once addressed, this area of the Ermineskin parkland will be reopened.”

The property is located at the southwest edge of Parksville, at the civic address of 790 Hirst Ave. Closure signs have been posted on the trails into the property, the city stated.

The $1.3-million purchase of the 97-acre parkland, which encompasses wetlands and several city wells, was approved by council in September of 2017.

It is to be maintained as a natural parkland in perpetuity under the agreement with the Ermineskin Cree Nation, which had owned the land.

Related: Parksville adds 97-acre wetlands

When Parksville city council approved the purchase, at its Sept. 18, 2017, meeting, Mayor Marc Lefebvre credited the Ermineskin Cree Nation with leaving the property accessible to residents and hikers who visit to bird-watch and enjoy the natural surroundings.

A city news release announcing the purchase said, “These uses will continue and maintenance of the park will be performed by city staff…”

In its preliminary 2018 budget deliberations, completed in October of 2017, council added 1.5 full-time equivalent positions to the city’s parks staff, in part due to the addition of the Ermineskin parkland, and established a $50,000 maintenance budget for the property.

Coun. Kim Burden argued the city did not yet have a plan in place for the park and asked how staff could know the expenses required to maintain a park that is intended to remain, as much as possible, in a natural state.

Chief administrative officer Debbie Comis told council at that time the budget figure was an estimate only, and that one of the factors that would help determine the actual maintenance cost would be the result of a risk assessment on the property.

“Now that the park belongs to the city, we have liability issues,” Comis told council.

— With city of Parksville files

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