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Ladysmith marina gets new name amid transition to First Nation

The society failed to get a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to allow it to continue running the marina until there is a decision in a court case it has filed challenging the transfer

The former Ladysmith Community Marina has a new name bestowed by the Stz’uminus First Nation, which is taking over the facility’s operation amid ongoing legal challenges.

Now called Oyster Bay Marina, the facility, with 170 slips for pleasure craft, 12 for liveaboards and 900 feet of space for visiting vessels, will be operated by Thuy’she’Num Property Management Limited Partnership, a Coast Salish Development Corp. company owned by the First Nation.

As of this week, details were still being worked out about the transition from the Ladysmith Maritime Society, which developed the facility starting in the mid-1980s.

The provincial water lot lease previously held by the city and granted to the society is being transferred to the Stz’uminus as part of the province’s reconciliation efforts.

Richard Wiefelspuett, executive director of the society, said Tuesday the organization is continuing to pay marina workers for now.

It hopes to be able to continue to stage community events such as a children’s pirate day and heritage boat festival, although the location still has to be worked out, he said. The society’s board was set to meet Wednesday to discuss the facility’s future.

The marina’s floating museum is closed and its artifacts have been removed as renovations to the building are carried out. Wiefelspuett said he expects it will be ready to reopen in March.

The society is hoping the museum will be able to remain at the marina, where it has several heritage boats.

Last month, the society failed in its application for a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to allow it to continue running the marina until there is a decision in a court case it has filed challenging the transfer of the provincial water lot lease and seeking a declaration that the marina facilities belong to the society.

If successful, the injunction would have stalled the planned transition to the First Nation.

No date has been set for the civil case to be heard.

The transfer of the marina is a key part of a reconciliation agreement signed by the First Nation in 2022 with the province. Plans call for the marina’s redevelopment as part of a larger project dovetailing with the town of Ladysmith’s waterfront plan, which was created with input from the nation.

The nation maintains that any delay in implementing the reconciliation agreement would be an “enormous setback to reconciliation initiatives that are intended to bring about long-awaited tangible benefits.”

Coast Salish Development Corp.’s website says it plans to redesign the area around the marina to create “valuable recreational and economic opportunities for residents of the Town of Ladysmith, Stz’uminus members and visitors.”

A Stz’uminus First Nation spokesperson could not be reached Tuesday but in the fall, Chief John Elliott called it “a coming home” after land was taken when First Nations were moved to reserves.

“Our ancestors lived on this land, thus Ladysmith Harbour has great significance to our community. This sets the stage for making things right.”

The water lot and anticipated land leases will help create a sustainable future, he said. The nation has more than 1,400 members.

Redevelopment is expected to take place following environmental remediation, including dealing with soil contaminated by coal slag at Slagg Point due to past mining. Work also includes removing 29 derelict vessels from a nearby water lot and taking out some submerged debris.

The reconciliation agreement includes $10 million from the province to clean up the property.

A business plan referenced in court documents said any boaters currently mooring at the facility who sign a moorage agreement will be welcome to remain.

“Given that the redevelopment plan includes expanded moorage capacity, there is no reason that current moorers cannot remain indefinitely, so long as they agree to the terms set for Oyster Bay Marina,” say the documents.

Coast Salish Development Corp. said in the documents that it is open to ideas for public events at the marina.

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