Two parks projects shifted to 2024

Gabriola’s director has made adjustments to Area B’s 2023 parks plan to reduce “budget pressures.”

The Regional District of Nanaimo board of directors passed motions at its March 7 board meeting that included a total of $23,780 in reductions to Electoral Area B’s parks financial plan and added $2,500 to external contributions.

Vanessa Craig’s motions included removing two parks projects for 2023, the Malaspina trail and fencing project and the Blue Heron accessible path project, which were added to the 2024 budget instead.

“It’s a small project that I could see delaying for a year, plus we’re doing [the Area B recreation and parks master plan] so I think these types of discussions can be had during that,” Craig said of the Malaspina project. How to approach accessibility for Blue Heron path is still not finalized, Craig added, and is a project that could also be addressed during the master plan process.

Craig’s third reduction will drop the contribution to reserve from $4,280 to zero for 2023. As of Dec. 31, 2022, the Electoral Area B Community Parks reserve fund had a balance of $103,003.

The director also added $2,500 to the parks budget, which will be given to Gabriola Land and Trails Trust, increasing the amount provided to the organization to $7,500 “in 2023 and going forward.” Craig said GaLTT requested the increase “in recognition for all of the volunteer work.”

In relation to regional parks, the board also passed a motion that staff explore grant funding in collaboration with the Nature Trust of BC for the Coats Marsh weir replacement project and deliver a report to the board.

The RDN “may be eligible for grant funding either from the province or federally, and to explore that grant funding would be an important opportunity for the RDN given the close to million we’re looking at for this project,” Electoral Area G Director Lehann Wallace, who introduced the motion, said.

According to the RDN, the project is estimated to cost from $380,000 to $1,080,000 for various scenarios related to weir height and removal of existing infrastructure. In 2022, $60,845 was spent on consulting fees to complete a study on optimal weir elevation. For 2023, the proposed budget for the Coats Marsh weir replacement is $950,416, the majority of which would be sourced from reserves.

The revised financial plan from Feb. 28 proposes a regional parks capital budget that collects $1,620,327 from taxation of homeowners across the regional district under a 50-50 population-converted assessment model. Of that amount, $1,365,346 would be for contributions to reserves to assist with the $21.6 million for parkland acquisitions and capital projects listed in the five-year financial plan, which includes continuation projects such as the Descanso Bay building replacement.

Removing projects funded by reserves will not impact the tax requisition, a staff report notes; “reducing contributions to reserve fund will impact the ability to complete future year capital projects and parkland acquisitions.”

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder