The City of Nanaimo has come up with concept plans on how to extend the Harbourfront Walkway all the way to Departure Bay Beach, and now it wants to hear from residents.
The city announced today, June 11, that it is launching three weeks of public engagement around concepts for a $25-30-million project to connect the walkway from Departure Bay ferry terminal to Departure Bay Beach.
In late April, the city first showed aspects of the plan to its accessibility and inclusiveness committee. Over recent years proposals for the walkway have changed and notions of an elevated walkway have been put aside.
The city is now proposing an on-beach walkway below the Cilaire bluffs, with a lower walking path and an upper cycling path separated by a sloped median. The city says the project will include beach restoration and new public access points to the beach.
“The waterfront is really important to people. It is the heart of the community and enhancing and making it more accessible for everyone is a really important step forward,” said Mayor Leonard Krog. “Right now very few people see and enjoy that stretch of our waterfront from the ferry terminal to Departure Bay and would like that opportunity, people of all abilities.”
The city is sharing with residents a brochure and video and is asking people to fill out a survey on the project at www.getinvolvednanaimo.ca/waterfrontwalkway. Krog said he hopes people will take a serious look and let the city know whether the project should be a priority.
The proposed walkway will include a seawall near the ferry terminal “to minimize fill on the existing mudflats and estuary” and a bridge over Northfield Creek, the brochure notes. As well, “innovative headlands” will break up waves and limit erosion. The cycling and walking paths will include “regular access between levels” with steps, seating and beach access and the city is planning rest areas along the route with a variety of seating, picnic tables, “cycle parking” and wheelchair access points.
The city notes that private properties along the route extend to the shoreline and the city will work with owners to “secure the riparian rights.” Property acquisition costs, as well as a 30-per cent project contingency, are included in cost estimates. Various approvals will be required as the city will need to work with the federal and provincial governments and regional district and recognizes that the project would be built on traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation.
Krog said the “green shores” approach of the on-beach walkway was an immediately appealing concept, generally, to members of city council and he said it’s more than a buzz-phrase.
“You want to enhance the environment,” the mayor said. “You don’t want to damage it, you want to make it welcoming for wildlife, ensure that habitat is protected and enhanced and blends naturally into the environment.”
The city says it will explore grant opportunities but notes the scale of the project means borrowing will be necessary and so residents will need to OK the plans through either a referendum or an alternative approval process. No project timeline will be created unless city council decides to move forward on the funding and detailed design steps.
Krog said the walkway would be enjoyed not only by current residents of Nanaimo, but future generations, and said it would also be an “amazing attraction” for the city and promote businesses along the waterfront. He said as mayor, it’s his job to boost the community and thinks the walkway expansion would do that.
“I am enthusiastic about this and I hope it gets the community support that I believe it deserves because I think in both the short and long-term, this will be an amazing improvement for Nanaimo,” said Krog. “Given the stage the city’s at, given the desire to crawl out of the COVID world that’s been so restrictive and hard on people, this kind of a project, I think, is important.”