EDITORIAL: Parksville has land to discuss

Perhaps focus should be shifted to what can be done with land the city already owns, as opposed to purchasing more

Call it the bird-in-the-hand theory.

There has been talk in Parksville recently about the use of municipal dollars to acquire waterfront land.

Perhaps a more appropriate discussion as we head into the election campaign is what Parksville should be doing with the land it already owns.

Outgoing Mayor Chris Burger took us on a rainy walk this week to view part of a 13-acre parcel, purchased by the city for $750,000 in 2013, that abuts the Englishman River estuary. It’s a gorgeous, ecologically significant piece of land.

It also has a residence with a renter (Burger assured us the city has a deal on paper with the tenant).

As we understand it, the land was purchased by the city as part of its plan to develop a multi-purpose trail that could eventually link Parksville Community Park with Rathtrevor Provincial Park.

While Burger suggests this could come to pass within the next four years, we think that’s a little ambitious.

Consider that the city, the Regional District of Nanaimo, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and at least a couple provincial government ministries would have be involved, along with First Nations and other significant stewards of the estuary. That doesn’t make us confident residents and tourists will be able to walk or ride their bikes and scooters from Parksville Beach to Rathtrevor any time before 2020.

Still, it was a significant purchase for the city and could be the focus of discussions this fall.

Another parcel of land purchased by the city in recent years does not require the same kind of environmental attention. The city owns the vacant property at one of the highest-profile places in the city, across the Alberni Highway from the fire hall.

Here’s a piece of dirt with enormous potential. Its future use could also spur excellent debate during the election campaign this fall. Should the entire location be turned into a park? Should there be mixed use, allowing for some commercial enterprises? Should it be sold to the highest bidder, perhaps with covenants on what kind of businesses would be allowed?

We believe a mix of uses on that land could help rejuvenate the downtown core.

— Editorial by John Harding

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