Residents and patients are one step closer to a vision for a new wellness path around Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.
City council approved, at a public hearing on Thursday, the third reading of a hospital area plan which proposes a public walking path across and around the NRGH grounds.
The idea is to promote health and encourage exercise for all ages and abilities and create a stronger connection between the hospital and community surrounding it, according to the plan, which shows the path could feature a landscaped boulevard, benches and public art.
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It would be wider than a sidewalk, with more detail, resources and attention to creating a space that does more than allow people to walk back and forth, according to city planner Brian Zurek, who sees it being an amenity and an attraction.
“The idea with the wellness walk is to make a stronger bridge between the hospital and the community around it, so one way to do that is to create a new public space and activate it … both for the enjoyment and use of the residents, and for the employees and patients and family members who are attending the hospital,” he said.
Zurek, who notes there’s no detailed plan, said the concept is have a greater proportion of the public space along the street developed for pedestrians in addition to sidewalks and boulevards, more landscaping that’s pedestrian-friendly, allowances for public art, and street furniture or other amenities that make people want to be there.
“For example we heard from people at the hospital involved in patient rehab that encouraging people to walk by potentially having distance markers all the way around the hospital might help,” he said. “If the first time you do [a lap] you can only do 100 metres but you stay in the hospital for a week and by the time you leave you can do 350, that’s something that might encourage people to move.”
Zurek said the space the city has now wouldn’t accommodate the concept, so land would have to be acquired from properties adjacent to the hospital, which is typically done incrementally as properties re-develop.
The over-arching hospital area plan, a long-term guide for city staff and property owners, is expected to be on the council table for adoption in August. Stakeholders, such as the city, local agencies and residents, would have to collaborate to realize the intent of the plan, according to the document.