Requests for permits in Regional District of Nanaimo parks have been increasing for the last handful of years with a significant increase posted through the first half of this year.
In the first half of 2023, park use permits increased by 155 per cent over the entirety of 2022 with 56 permits issued through the second quarter this year, including two in Electoral Area B, versus 52 overall last year. In the last seven years, park use permits have increased nearly every year, excluding 2020, according to figures shared in the RDN’s Q2 2023 parks report.
Permits are required for events including weddings, sporting events, school field trips and research, all outlined in the park use regulations Bylaw 1801.
Certain parks tend to be more popular than others with requests for use, RDN superintendent of parks planning, Amy Gore, said. “Moorecroft Regional Park, Es-hw Sme~nts Community Park, Errington Community Park and Meadow Drive Community Park are popular for events and Englishman River Regional Park for research.”
Park use permit fees range from $25 to $250 a day and up to $1,000 a year plus damage deposits and application fees depending on the category of use. Revenue from permits for regional parks goes directly to the park for which the permit was issued. For community parks, revenue is applied to the general community parks budget in whichever electoral area the park is located. Should the RDN have to close a park during a time when a permit is issued, a refund is provided.
The RDN’s 10-year parks and trails strategy adopted in 2022 includes a goal to increase volunteering, learning and programming opportunities within the parks and trails system. It notes that the region’s parks “have great potential to serve as outdoor classrooms and learning environments.”
The strategy also remarks on the importance of balancing the needs of a growing population in the region with protecting the area’s landscapes.
Gore said RDN staff consider how much impact a park may be able to handle when reviewing permit applications. “Permits are not approved if the event doesn’t fit with the park or the management plan,” Gore said. “Conditions are put on permits that restrict what can be done, dependent on which park it is or where in a park the event takes place.”
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder