‘Took all the seats away’: Nanaimo removes multiple benches from downtown

'Took all the seats away': Nanaimo removes multiple benches from downtown

There’s frustration in Nanaimo’s downtown, where many popular benches were removed without notice.

Seventy-two-year-old Ida Johnny looked for a place to rest in Nanaimo’s Diana Krall Plaza Tuesday, but found her go-to bench was one of many missing.

“It was so beautiful with all the benches,” Johnny told CHEK News.

“It’s really sad we can’t have anywhere to rest and sit down,” added the Nanaimo senior.

Many believed the removal of the benches was to deter homeless people from gathering there, but the city says that’s not the case.

On Tuesday, Michelle Porter was one of many unhoused who speculated that the benches’ removal was directed at them.

“They took all of the seats away. They’re trying to get rid of people like us,” said Porter.

In an update Wednesday, however, the city said that’s not the case.

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The city says the benches were removed ahead of filming in May. Hit TV show “The Last Of Us” took over the square last month.

RELATED: New photos show post-apocalyptic downtown Nanaimo amid ‘The Last of Us’ filming

The municipality says the benches were removed during filming and that since then, staff have been using that time to “touch up” the benches, which are currently getting powder coated before  being reinstalled.

Still, the lack of communication caused frustration among community members.

On Tuesday, community activist Brunie Brunie had strong words for the removal of the downtown benches.

“I’m really pissed off that they took all the benches away from this inner town square. People need to be able to sit down. There’s 30 per cent of seniors that live here,” the Nanaimo resident said Tuesday.

“I have to sit on this, hard concrete, because the city’s taking all the benches out,” said unhoused Nanaimo resident Janet Bingham.

It comes at the same time that the City of Nanaimo is removing grass from downtown parks on Old Victoria Road and next to the Italian Fountain, to reduce loitering.

“It’s not public anymore, right? Take all the benches out, no one can sit and do nothing,” said unhoused Nanaimo resident Danny Proud.

“It’s not a very friendly people town,” said Brunie.

“The whole city is like this. We miss our places to sit down,” said Johnny.

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A photo of where the benches used to be located is shown. (Google Maps)

Earlier this spring, the Cowichan Valley Regional District voted to remove bus shelters at Duncan’s Village Green Mall and on James Street out of concern for public safety.

“And we recognize that this is a tough decision, because our customers that do use the shelters when they can, they’re the ones that are going to be inconvenienced. It’s sort of the bad apple will lose it for everybody,” said Cowichan Valley Regional District’s Jim Wakeham on March 27.

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