Nanaimo’s historic marina is a popular port-of-call for boaters cruising the waters off eastern Vancouver Island, and a $9-million plan to refurbish it is a welcome improvement.
Pacific Northwest Marina Group, which created the Sidney Pier Hotel and Spa and Seaport West on the waterfront in Sidney, has produced an impressive plan for the redevelopment, including replacing and realigning most of the moorage floats to make better use of the space. A long boardwalk at water level will give the public access to the floats, restaurants and a floating plaza.
In the midst of all the work, the Nanaimo Port Authority and PNMG must do their best to keep the character of the harbour.
Nanaimo’s Boat Basin is a working harbour, used by the commercial fishing fleet and by the residents of nearby Protection Island, who have long been able to tie up their boats while they do their shopping in the big city. Both groups fear that leasing the marina to the developer for 30 years will leave them out in the cold.
The port authority and PNMG say both fishing boats and Protection Islanders will be welcome, although the fishing vessels will no longer get the discounted moorage rates they have enjoyed in the past. That means a 40-foot fish boat would pay $1,500 a month instead of $200. They also won’t be able to unload cargo at the marina any more.
Protection Islanders want some guarantee that they will always have a spot, because private boats and a small passenger ferry are the only way on and off the island. The Snuneymuxw First Nation wants to be consulted because its rights under the Douglas Treaties could be affected.
The developer says they have consulted the groups and done what they can. Fish boats will have to pay market rates, and it’s no longer safe to unload them at the marina, so that will have to be done elsewhere. Spots are available for the Protection Islanders and the passenger ferry, but no private operator would guarantee them moorage forever. And, they argue, it’s not a private company’s job to solve the issues with the Douglas Treaties.
Those arguments make sense, but let’s hope the authority and the developer will remember the central place that the waterfront holds in Nanaimo, and strive to make it inviting not only for pleasure boaters and the strolling public, but also for the many others who call it home.
© Copyright 2013