Restaurant, longhouse among development plans for Newcastle Island

By Ian Holmes
April 13, 2018 - 5:11pm Updated: April 14, 2018 - 12:05am

SFN's Erralyn Thomas explains the potential in sharing Snuneymuxw's culture during a Newcastle Island business case unveiling. Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

SFN chief Michael Wyse said SFN elders long expressed a desire to have a stronger Indigenous presence on Newcastle Island.Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — Several new culturally inspired amenities on Newcastle Island highlight Snuneymuxw First Nation plans to develop the former site of their sacred village.

Erralyn Thomas, president of SFN's development arm Petroglyph Development Group, outlined the plans, which were “decades in the making,” during an invite-only unveiling event on Newcastle Island Friday.

The vision includes a restaurant, longhouse, welcome centre, amphitheater and 18 additional campsites. Thomas said Indigenous history is lacking in the mid-island area, which this plan addresses by sharing the Snuneymuxw way of life.

“Such as canoeing, such as the interpretive walking tours where you can learn about different plants and trees and how the land was used in our way of life.”

Thomas, who's also an SFN councillor, said the plan cements a longstanding vision by SFN to create a stronger presence on the island, while respecting the natural beauty it offers.

“There are a few structures that we're contemplating, but there's a large amount of green space that will still remain the same,” Thomas told NanaimoNewsNOW. “Our vision contemplates what Saysutshun (Newcastle) is offering now.”

Thomas said they are working with government and private sector partners on funding to make their vision for Newcastle a reality, but don't have a development timeline.

SFN chief Michael Wyse told NanaimoNewsNOW elders have long called for a heightened Indigenous presence on Newcastle Island.

“We want to tell people who the Snuneymuxw people are, our history, why we found this part of the island so significant to our people,” Wyse said.

Under a 2017 memorandum of understanding between the City of Nanaimo and SFN, the First Nation received $250,000 in financial assistance from the City for several initiatives related to Newcastle. Half of the money was to be used as a subsidy for the SFN-operated ferry service, while the other half was earmarked for an access study, concept design and business plan.

Thomas said lower fares and more frequent service saw 30,000 people ride the ferry in 2017. She confirmed SFN is in talks with the City to subsidize the ferry service again this year.

A previous business plan for the island completed in 2016 between SFN, the City of Nanaimo and BC Parks was not acted upon.

The 900-acre marine provincial park has an expansive 22-kilometre trail network and few amenities beyond a pavilion hall, docking facilities and 18 campsites. The park is managed under a tripartite agreement between BC Parks, SFN and the City.

— with files from Dominic Abassi


[email protected]

On Twitter: @reporterholmes


City reschedules Reuse Rendezvous to avoid April showers