Mount Benson gondola talk gets off the ground

By Ian Holmes
March 23, 2017 - 1:30pm Updated: March 23, 2017 - 3:16pm

Could a gondola like this one day lead to the top of Mount Benson?Grouse Mountain

Mount Benson summit Regional District of Nanaimo

NANAIMO — The idea of a gondola or skytram up the north face of Mount Benson is being pitched to see where the public stands on the ambitious concept.

Jim Johnson, a longtime Nanaimo-based Realtor, is a strong supporter of improved access atop Mount Benson. He's currently reaching out to local government officials on the idea.

He's also launched an online petition to gauge community support.

While not outright discounted, several hurdles for gondola or tram-like technology are listed in the Regional District of Nanaimo's (RDN) 10-year Management Plan for Mount Benson. The plan expires in 2020.

“Nothing in the report suggests there is a very strong community support for a gondola up the mountain,” RDN board chair Bill Veenhof said. “It is more the opposite, that the community at large seems to want the park to stay like it is.”

The RDN's plan outlines public concerns about the need to preserve the wilderness character of the park. The document noted gondolas or railway lines could negatively impact sensitive ecosystems. Visual impacts, commercialization of the park and the cost of a gondola-type service are also noted in the RDN report as public concerns. Private ownership of surrounding lands is another barrier, according to the report.

However, the RDN also acknowledged a strong desire for access to Mount Benson for people of all ages and physical abilities. Offering mountaintop views as a tourist attraction is also mentioned as a positive.

“Never say never,” Veenhof said. “A groundswell of public support for something like this would be listened to.”

Johnson told NanaimoNewsNOW he's hoping to generate a community conversation to see if the support Veenhof referenced exists.

 

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