Mayor Chris Burger says 2013 will be the year of water in Parksville — both its supply and the burgeoning plans to provide more public access to the oceanfront.
The price tags for both will be big but they could set the city up as a leader in both sustainability and tourism, Burger told the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce in a state-of-the-city-like address Thursday at Tigh-Na-Mara.
"Water is the future for us here," said Burger. "We can do a much better job at protecting the Englishman River and if we do this right, we will take our place in the history books."
Burger was talking about cutting-edge aquifer storage methods the city is considering. He said the storage focus is key for the city because the need for water is high during the tourist-heavy summer when the supply is low.
"We need to ensure we have a sustainable supply or we will be in load of trouble in a few short years — storage is absolutely the key for us. We have a duty to do that — to be innovative to develop new ways to store our water."
Burger’s wide-ranging talk included comments about the Oceanside Health Centre (“A lot of people are going to realize it’s going to be a lot more than a glorified walk-in clinic”) and development cost charges that have not ben changed since 2008 (“I suspect there may be some increases there”).
He also spoke about public-access expansion to the city’s “important economic magnet,” the beach. Specifically, Burger talked of a 2.5-kilometre extension of the boardwalk or a greenway linking “our other beach” at Rathtrevor Provincial Park to Parksville Community Park.
“Think of the asset that brings for us as a city,” said Burger, estimating the cost of the link between the parks at $2.5 million, or $1,000/metre, which would include a bridge across the Englishman River and possible land acquisitions.
“It’s going to be one of the most spectacular things ever done here,” said Burger, estimating the project, if all goes well, could be completed in three or four years.
Burger, who lives in Parksville and owns and operates a store in Dashwood, also told the crowd of about 100 business people the local economy is hurting right now.
“Small businesses are suffering,” he said. “It’s a very difficult environment.”