The latest round of public engagement on a proposal to extend Nanaimo’s waterfront walkway to Departure Bay, which will cost up to $30 million, shows strong support for the project, the City of Nanaimo says.
The section of walkway proposed would be built between Kinsman Park and the Departure Bay ferry terminal. If constructed, it would be part of what would become Vancouver Island’s longest waterfront walkway — spanning from Departure Bay beach to the Nanaimo estuary in the south end.
In an agenda for Monday night’s council meeting, city staff report that 2,583 responded to the online survey — including 1,039 people from the broader Departure Bay area — calling it a “good response.”
Of those, 79.9 per cent of people indicated strong support or support for the project, while just 15 per cent said they did not support or strongly did not support the project.
“Respondents noted a range of reasons they would use the Departure Bay waterfront walkway, including for exercise, access to the beach, wildlife viewing, to walk/cycle to shops/restaurants outside Departure Bay, and to socialize,” the report says.
Out of the new design elements presented in the city’s latest plan for the walkway, respondents showed the most support for additional greenery including trees and plantings, waterfront access, separated bike and walking lanes, lighting that avoids light spill and seating and picnic areas.
Nanaimo’s mayor says the survey results are no surprise.
“It’s consistent with what I’ve always believed. This was always top of mind for many people in Nanaimo. It is popular. It would see incredible public use,” said Leonard Krog.
Concerns raised by the public include protection of existing riparian and shoreline areas, operations and maintenance, active transportation enhancements, considerations for climate change such as sea level rise, high tides and storm water, and waterfront access. First Nations also need to be consulted.
“We have an ongoing conversation with Snuneymuxw First Nation around this. They haven’t said yes and they haven’t said no but that is clearly crucial to this project proceeding,” said Krog.
Plans for a waterfront walkway have been around for years and an implementation plan was approved by city councillors in 2017. However, just two years ago, the estimated price tag for the project was pegged at around $10 million, but with the cost of just about everything rising, staff are now anticipating the grand total to be somewhere between $25 and $30 million.
Survey participants were also asked which funding options they preferred to pay for the walkway. The strongest support was shown for exploring grant opportunities, with 1,481 respondents saying they’d strongly support that option.
The walkway project will be presented to council in fall of this year along with other capital projects, in which council will explore funding options for the proposal.
If they proceed, council will likely have to hold a referendum in fall 2022 or spring 2023 to secure public support to fund the project through a borrowing bylaw.
If approved, the project would go to tender and see shovels hit the ground by fall 2024.