Boaters set up an advocacy coalition as Ladysmith plans waterfront's future

A new boaters’ advocacy coalition has come together in Ladysmith to support moves to enhance the town’s harbour and strengthen the local economy.

“We want to turn Ladysmith into a destination port for small craft, and still have the working docks that are there now,” said Nanaimo’s Richard Kinar, one of the group’s founders. Kinar keeps his 42-foot-power boat at Ladysmith.

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The fledgling organization backs the town of Ladysmith’s ambitious waterfront plan featuring a $25-million arts and heritage hub. The municipality has issued a request for proposals for an architect to provide construction drawings and design supervision for the first $4.3-million phase at the arts and heritage hub.

The town has a lively and picturesque harbour that includes private marinas, a federal dock, the Ladysmith Yacht Club, a Harbour Heritage Centre, the Ladysmith Maritime Society, oyster processors, Western Forest Products and others.

“We are gathering together as many of the stakeholders as possible with the hope of creating a common voice to governments of all levels to advance the interests of boaters in Ladysmith,” says the coalition’s draft document outlining its purpose.

“As the waterfront plan is implemented, we wish to ensure that development keeps the boating community in mind for services, pleasing aesthetics in the harbour, and that the economic contribution to the community is currently significant and worth growing into the future.”

The report says Ladysmith could become the “northern gate” for the Gulf Islands, like Sidney in the south. “With the growth of the Nanaimo Airport, we are seeing an influx of boaters to our area.”

An upgraded waste pump-out facility is needed, the report said, noting that the existing facility needs improvement. The group would like to see a connected trail system from Ladysmith Marina to Transfer Beach, and for those trails to become part of the Cowichan Valley Trail and the Trans Canada Trail system.

It suggests a chandlery, a boat yard, bays for canvas and mechanical repair, bike rentals, kayak/paddleboard rentals, awaterfront pub/restaurant, and added paved areas and parking. The possibility of float homes was raised as well.

Kinar estimates there are about 1,000 boats in the harbour.

Top of the coalition’s wish list is a fuel dock. This would not only serve local commercial and recreational boaters, who have to travel elsewhere to buy fuel but it would attract visitors who would make use of area services, he said.

“As soon as Ladysmith has fuel, people will stop there on a regular basis,” Kinar said.

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