A group of Protection Island residents visited the City of Nanaimo’s committee of the whole meeting Monday to ask that public access from the water be included in plans for the south downtown waterfront. (CITY OF NANAIMO image)

Protection Island residents float boat ramp idea for south downtown waterfront

A delegation addressed city councillors at a committee of the whole meeting Monday

A group of Protection Island residents are calling on the City of Nanaimo to include a boat ramp in their plans to redevelop vacant waterfront property.

During a committee of the whole meeting on Monday, Protection Island residents Jim MacQuarrie, Maureen Johnson, Jim Menzies, David Carter and Gary Weikum told councillors that they would like to see a boat service ramp included in the city’s Port Drive waterfront master plan.

Currently, the only city-owned boat ramp in the harbour is Brechin Boat Ramp, located near the Departure Bay ferry terminal. Residents on Protection Island can also access downtown through a number of private docks and marinas. However, barges to the island begin their journey from points near the Departure Bay ferry terminal.

The delegation informed councillors through a powerpoint presentation that a boat service ramp located near railway tracks on the former Wellcox Rail Yard land would result in a roughly one-kilometre trip to Protection Island for barges, instead of the nearly four-kilometre route that currently exists.

“This service ramp could save thousands of litres of diesel fuel,” MacQuarrie told councillors.

During their presentation, Johnston explained that although accessing downtown is more challenging because of where they live, which was a choice they all made when moving to the island, they are still residents of Nanaimo. She said a boat ramp resulting in shorter trips for barges would not only benefit residents living on Protection Island, but also city staff as well, citing barge trips carrying city-owned service vehicles.

“Our city is continually barging supplies and equipment to our neighbourhood starting at the Brechin Boat Ramp,” she said. “A fire truck, ambulance and other support vehicles stationed on Protection Island need to be serviced and are barged back and forth.”

Citing a survey showing that Protection Island residents spent $2.7 million in downtown Nanaimo in 2o12, Johnston said that Protection Island residents are deeply connected to the city’s downtown core.

“It’s where we shop, it’s where we get medical services, it’s where we eat at restaurants,” she said.

Weikum said it was the group’s understanding that there would be a boat ramp included in the plan, following consultation with city staff. He island residents attended a series of city-held opened house sessions, reached out to councillors, attended planning commissions and wrote letters expressing their desire for a boat ramp, adding that draft plan was the first time they became aware that a boat ramp wasn’t included.

“We are here tonight to say that we would like it to be put back in the plan,” Weikum said.

Weikum said the former Wellcox Land is the last patch of undeveloped city-owned waterfront and is a huge opportunity for Nanaimo to create an area that will provide easier access to the harbour for everyone.

“If there was a dock associated with it that would be great, but I think what we’ve done is we’ve scaled it back, our request, because already we’ve got push back because what we were asking for is too much,” Weikum said.

There were a few questions or comments from councillors regarding the presentation. Coun. Bill Bestwick said when the city goes back out to the public to discuss the draft plan, he hopes there will be more opportunity for the group to meet with staff so that they can have their voice and concerns heard.

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