Major improvements are coming to a popular lakeside park in Nanaimo.
The City of Nanaimo is moving forward with a multiphased improvement plan for Westwood Lake Park — which includes a completely redesigned parking lot and new pedestrian infrastructure — after councillors approved final concept designs for phase one and agreed to include phase 2 improvements in the 2023-27 draft financial plan during a finance and audit meeting Wednesday.
Under the first phase of the plan, the entire parking lot directly beside Westwood Road will be removed and replaced with a larger somewhat circular lot that will add 36 new stalls, bringing the total number of stalls to 95. Four additional accessible parking stalls will also be added, bringing the total number of universally accessible stalls in the parking lot to eight.
There will be two access points to the new parking lot via Westwood Road, a landscaped buffer would also be installed between the lot and Westwood Road, and numerous sidewalks that allow pedestrians to move more easily between the parking lot and the beach.
Parking, or the lack of it, has long been an issue at Westwood Lake Park, which has seen its use soar amid the ongoing pandemic, according to a recent staff report.
Kirsty MacDonald, the city’s parks and open space planner, told councillors Wednesday that the new design is based on feedback from the public and is intended to reduce conflicts between various users at the park.
“What we’ve got before you is really a site plan that blends all the public engagement responses that we’ve heard with our desires to reduce conflict at this end of Westwood Road initial gateway into Westwood Lake Park,” she said, later adding. “The focus is really on pedestrian safety and allowing families and all users to have safe routes through the site down to the beach and the destination areas.”
Although there are no current bus routes that stop at Westwood Lake Park, MacDonald said the new design does include a bus turnaround area.
“We have put into the design, a bus turn-around,” she said. “If regional transit, if it is on-demand or in another way, comes up to the site there is the ability for a bus to turn around so that we’re not just focusing on car access.”
The first phase is budgeted at $970,600 and is included in the city’s 2022-2026 financial plan. Construction is expected to begin in early fall and be completed by the end of the year.
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Phase two of the project would see all existing parking spaces directly facing First Beach removed and the beach area would then be expanded by roughly 800 square metres. A new sidewalk and green space would be installed between the parking lot and the beach. There would also be a new universal access pathway that runs across the sand and to the water, new picnic areas, additional seating, and underground servicing for a future amenity building.
MacDonald said the second phase focuses on improving the area around First Beach in an effort to make it more user-friendly.
“Phase two will be focused more on the foreshore and the beach area, looking at including some universal access to the beach through this project, having more recreational amenities and really making it a gathering space for the community with picnic areas and additional seating,” she said.
The city has not provided a figure for how the second phase would cost because, according to MacDonald, cost estimates and detailed designs are still being worked out.
Other amenities that are being considered but are not currently incorporated in either phase include a playground and a new amenity building with universal washrooms, an outdoor shower, a storage area, and a first-aid and lifeguard station.
Richard Harding, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, told councillors the reason a brand new washroom wasn’t included in any particular phase was that they tend to cost more and take longer to plan and build than many of the upgrades that are in the first two phases.
“A washroom building always does cost a lot more than the public or whatever city council thinks it is going to be. Plus, we want to make sure that this building, that we do build, is really going to serve the park for years to come. So, it will be a bit bigger and of course, we also want it to be inclusive.”