Regional District of Nanaimo staff will begin developing the scope of the Electoral Area B recreation, parks and trails master plan sometime this year to prepare for work to commence in 2023.
RDN staff and members of the Area B parks and open space advisory committee discussed the process at their June 6 meeting. Members asked what could be considered in the plan, such as active transportation corridors, or how the recreational facilities needs assessment currently in early stages will dovetail.
One of the recommendations of the RDN's draft parks and trails strategy, which covers the entire regional district, is to develop a parks and trails master plan for each electoral area. Such master plans could consider "potential park improvement projects to support recreation" and safe connections to recreation centres, the draft strategy says. The final draft of that strategy will be presented to the regional parks and trails select committee in September, according to staff.
Area B Director Vanessa Craig introduced a motion in December 2021 to incorporate funding in the 2023 budget for the development of a master plan for the electoral area, a total of $70,000.
“In a way we’re at a disadvantage, but also an advantage because we’re basically the first area that is going to do this, so we don’t have a checklist of all the things that you would like to see going into it,” Craig said at the June POSAC meeting.
Currently, parks, trails and recreation are guided by a collection of documents: the 707 Community Park Management Plan, the Coats Marsh Regional Park Management Plan, the Descanso Bay Regional Park Management Plan and the 2005-15 regional parks and trails plan. A service agreement between the RDN and the Gabriola Recreation Society guides recreational programming.
The intention of an electoral area-specific master plan is to identify gaps in the parks and trails system, Yann Gagnon, manager of parks; and Dean Banman, manger of recreation; told the Sounder. It would include a map that would indicate high priority areas for park improvements and new trail connections. The plan will encompass parks, trails, water accesses and recreation; however, the full scope has yet to be determined. That will be decided by the project team who will “consider consulting various stakeholders” and could include First Nations, Area B residents, parks and trails user groups, volunteer organizations, the Gabriola Recreation Society and the RDN board of directors, Gagnon and Banman said.
A management plan for Cox Community Park is expected to be put off until after an area-wide master plan is developed so as not to “presuppose what’s going to happen in Cox,” Craig said during the POSAC discussion.
“We’re right at the junction of when we can really benefit from [a master plan],” Craig said. “We’ve got a couple of big projects that we’ve been working on for years. There’s a change in our population, there’s a change in expectations, … demands or requests from the community, so I think it’s an opportune time.”
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder