Public input will help to decide Newcastle's future

Thu. Apr. 16/15

The development of cul tural and interpretive centres on Newcastle Island are among the options that will be presented at an open house in Maffeo-Sutton Park on Saturday.

The event is intended to gather public input into what people would like to see in the 336-hec tare provincial marine park, located in the Nanaimo harbour, as a business plan is developed.

Trish Malfair has been hired by the Snuneymuxw First Nation as the co-ordinator of Newcastle Island, which is considered trad itional Snuneymuxw territory.

She said the plan is to develop the park in three stages over seven years, and the focus of Sat urday's open house is to gather information of what the public wants for the first phase, which covers the first three years.

Malfair said among other options that will be presented at the open house, which runs from 1-4 p.m., is for more sporting events to be held on the island, as well as more interpretative walks, historical presentations and more food vendors.

She said transportation options for Newcastle Island, including the possibility of a permanent bridge being built to Nanaimo, will likely be considered in either phase two or three of the development process.

Year-round transportation to the island, which currently has a regular foot-ferry service only in the summer months, is consid ered by many to be a top priority before more tourist and recrea tion-related development can be established at the marine park.

"We'll have a large range of options at the open house for the public to consider, and we'll have displays set up and comment cards for people to fill out," Mal fair said. "The information from the event will be evaluated and will be used to help determine how we will proceed with our business plan for the island."

Newcastle Island has long been recognized by B.C. Parks as one of the most intriguing parks in the province and in recognition of its uniqueness, the City of Nanaimo, the province and the SFN signed a precedent-setting agreement in 2007 for all three parties to co-operatively manage the island.Nanaimoites in 1955 voted more than 60 per cent in favour of purchasing

the island for a park and in 1959, by a vote of more than 85 per cent, it was sold to the province for $1 on the condition that it become a provincial park. Since then, Newcastle Island has grown into a summer retreat for thousands of visitors each year from near and far.