Proponents promote paddle centre as priority

Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission has left it to city council to decide if new paddling centre is a community priority.

The Nanaimo Boathouse Society will make its case to city politicians this month, as council considers whether a $5.1-million paddling centre ranks as a community priority.

Movement on a multimillion-dollar boathouse and paddling centre has been put on hold until Nanaimo city council decides where – and if – it falls on the priority list.

The decision was put into politicians’ hands by the Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission last week.

According to Richard Harding, the city’s director of parks, recreation and environment, the facility is “a great concept” but it’s also a significant and expensive project.

The two-storey paddling centre, proposed to offer adventure tourism activities, storage and washrooms, would be constructed with dollars raised by the boathouse society and eventually turned over to the city for ownership. A staff report shows the new building would cost the City of Nanaimo $100,000 annually in management fees and between $50,000 and $100,000 each year for maintenance and asset renewal. The expenses are not included in the five-year financial plan.

“There’s wonderful community ideas and projects out there. Hundreds of them. But … you can’t do it all,” said Harding, who believes council has to decide if the centre is a priority for the community.

Councillors Ted Greves and Fred Pattje, who both sit on the parks, rec and culture commission, agree council needs to weigh in on the project. There are questions that need to be looked at, such as where dollars for the paddling centre would come from, if the city has the money and whether there’s room on the city’s list of priority projects to add more, Greves said. The city already has plans for improvements to Caledonia Park and a covered multi-sport facility at Harewood Centennial Park.

“Rather than go through the rigmarole, the agreement in principle, I think what we have to do as a council is decide what our priorities are,” Greves said.

Camela Tang, president of the Nanaimo Boathouse Society, doesn’t see the latest development as a setback. The group is encouraged that it will be going before council, she said.

A presentation is expected at the June 23 council meeting.

Nanaimo News Bulletin