Waterfront walkway survey draws huge response, finds overwhelming support

By Dominic Abassi
June 12, 2017 - 9:13pm Updated: June 12, 2017 - 10:07pm

Described by many as Nanaimo's jewel, multiple plans surrounding the waterfront are being formed.Dominic Abassi/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — There's overwhelming support for a continuous waterfront walkway and the City of Nanaimo needs to avoid delays and get working on it right away.

That is the common theme pulled from responses to a public survey on the project, which garnered nearly 2,000 responses last month.

City of Nanaimo manager of real estate Bill Corsan said the level of participation from the public "beat all expectations."

"Going in I knew this was a project the public's interested in and I was optimistically hoping we might have 200 or 300 people responding...Very, very significant," Corsan told NanaimoNewsNOW.

A summary of the survey results showed 31 per cent of respondents want to see a section from Departure Bay to the BC Ferries terminal developed first. Corsan described that as "probably the most expensive and challenging section."

The second priority piece of the walkway is along the Newcastle Channel from the ferry terminal to Maffeo Sutton Park, according to survey results.

Other major themes identified in the survey are a need for improved signage and wayfinding in areas where the walkway is incomplete or doesn't connect, better separation between bikes and pedestrians, more parking and improved accessibility.

A "significant number of responses" also called for more amenities along the walkway. Those included garbage bins, washrooms, viewing areas, historical signage and more restaurants or coffee shops along the route.

The majority of respondents said they use the existing walkway a few times a month, with the area around Maffeo Sutton most popular. Eighty-nine per cent said they would rather see new sections added before existing portions are upgraded.

Corsan said the City and a consultant will incorporate all of the public's feedback during a design workshop with stakeholders on June 22, to be followed by a community drop-in session.

"The consultants will then get set to start doing the detailed design work...Hopefully by the fall we'll have a cost estimate."

The City is focusing on five sections to be completed by the end of 2018. Corsan said they are segments that continue or fill existing gaps in the walkway, with a goal of connectivity from the ferry terminal to downtown.

The long-term vision is a 13 km continuous walkway from Departure Bay to the Nanaimo River Estuary within 10 years.

The walkway is also considered a key feature of future development at 1 Port Dr. Staff are currently working to form a master plan for the 27-acres of city-owned land, which was most recently pegged as the best site for the proposed events centre.

The City is in negotiations with Seaspan Ferries to acquire nine acres of right-of-way on the land. Corsan previously told NanaimoNewsNOW the recent departure of the shipping company created the opportunity to “reimagine the property.”

Corsan said staff are also studying secondary access to the south downtown waterfront and examining options for crossing the Wellcox Railyard. An open house on that issue is planned for the fall.

You can view an interactive map of the waterfront walkway plan here.

Upcoming public events:

  • Public open house to discuss future use of 1 Port Drive: June 21, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., 1 Port Drive (across from Port Place Mall).
  • Drop-in session following waterfront walkway design meeting: June 22, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

 

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On Twitter: @domabassi

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