Incoming Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly plans to kick off his new job by tabling a petition in the House of Commons.
Manly will be sworn in on Monday, doubling the number of Green Party of Canada MPs in Ottawa. Party Leader Elizabeth May, the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, has been the lone Green MP.
Manly said he aims to introduce the petition “sometime [next] week.”
The petition, started by mountain biker Tyler Walker, calls for public access to 351 hectares designated as a Department of National Defence rifle range west of Nanaimo’s downtown.
More than 4,000 names were on the petition by Friday evening.
CFB Esquimalt ordered the public to stay off the property, which it said is used for live fire training during the day, at night and throughout the weekends.
The military is giving access to people on certain days so they can remove structures such as bridges and ramps that were built without permission. It will then dismantle what is left.
The nearly century-old rifle range has been a popular recreational area for many years. Along with mountain bikers, families, hikers and dog-walkers frequent the rugged and scenic spot.
Manly acknowledged that the military needs a rifle range, but said the community has grown over the years. The range was set up close to 100 years ago.
“The city has changed since then. We’ve had a lot of urban development,” he said. “In the 1920s, that would have been way out in the boonies. But now, there’s development coming up all around the place.”
Manly has written to the defence minister suggesting it might be time to look for a different spot for a rifle range.
He is urging consultation with recreational users, the Regional District of Nanaimo, the City of Nanaimo and the Snuneymuxw First Nation.
Private forest lands with a natural barrier such as steep mountain face, might be suitable, he said. “So there is no worry about people going back there.”
There is no Crown land available, he said.
Manly has used trails around the range and said lack of signage means it is difficult to know if one is in a park or on DND land.
“You could be coming down through the rifle range and not know it,” he said.
“People need to be safe and the military needs a safe area to be doing target practice.”
He’s also been hearing from area residents complaining about noise from machine guns firing. Manly, who lives about four to five kilometres from the range, hears it as well.
“It is quite pronounced.”