Plan for Newcastle Island unveiled

Wed. Apr. 22/15

The Snuneymuxw First Nation unveiled its proposed plan for Newcastle Island at a public input session in Maffeo-Sutton Park Saturday afternoon.

The proposed development plan, which is separated into three phases, is to increase and balance both first nation culture values and other heritage aspects currently on the island.

More than 60 people attended the launch of the open house and dozens trickled in as the day went on to fill out comment cards.

Melvin Good says he's excited about the plan and believes Newcastle Island should be used as a source of education and a venue to allow Snuneymuxw First Nation to tell their story.

"I think it's good to have knowledge out there and express who we are," Good said. "We have five clans in Nanaimo, we have the eagle, the killer whale, the bear, wolf and beaver, and not that many people know that."

One of Good's ideas is to have five totem poles on Newcastle Island, each representing a clan, situated with a plaque telling the story of each clan.

"It would be nice if the public started to know about us," Good said. "We have a rich, really rich culture but we're sort of left in the shade."

In 2007, the City of Nanaimo, the province and SFN signed an agreement for all three parties to co-operatively manage the island.

Joy Vikstrom filled out a comment card outlining her disappointment over how the three managing parties maintained the island since the precedent-setting agreement.

"If we can't maintain what we've got there now, how can we trust them to do anything new. They've had eight years but they just let it go," Vikstrom said.

The idea of a permanent bridge to Newcastle Island gained mixed reviews at the public input session. Good is in favour of the bridge, saying the tourism numbers would quadruple in size and tourists would leave happy, "especially if they had a rich native culture there."

Tanya Hayes, who visited the open house, disagrees, saying that a bridge would take away from the unique experience of visiting a marine park. "If you put a bridge to it, it's no longer a marine park, it's just an extension of Maffeo-Sutton Park," Hayes said. Project manager Rhonda Eager was pleased with the turnout and will look into creating an alternative way to collect more public input. "I was happy to see the number here, it seemed like a good turnout," Eager said. "There's a lot of interest about what happens on Newcastle Island."