Snuneymuxw First Nation may develop Newcastle cultural centre

Fri. Oct. 5/12
Nanaimo Daily News

The Snuneymuxw First Nation plans to examine ways to increase access to Newcastle Island.

Snuneymuxw Chief Doug White said the First Nation is considering building a centre in partnership with other governments and organizations, and he expects that a “comprehensive plan” should be completed in six months.

In addition to planning for a centre, White said the SFN will also examine the “full range” of alternatives to allow for increased access by visitors to the island, including full-time ferry service and the possibility of constructing a bridge over the Newcastle Island channel.

Members of the Newcastle Island Society have stated in the past that they are adamantly opposed to any notion of a bridge to the island, citing concerns that it would irrecoverably change the peaceful and tranquil nature of Newcastle, which is also a provincial marine park.

“We’re at the very early stages in the process and we have a lot of work to do to determine what’s best for the island before any work begins,” White said.

“We see a future for Newcastle in which it is increasingly recognized as a source of pride for all citizens of the region. We’ll be bringing consultants to the island over the next few months to let us know what our options are for the centre and other projects on the island.”

The 336-hectare park located in the Nanaimo harbour boasts a rich history, both for the Snuneymuxw and non-aboriginal people, along with its spectacular beauty and many amenities.

Newcastle Island, which is considered traditional Snuneymuxw territory, 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 cooperatively manage the island.

While widely recognized as under-utilized, access to the park has been an issue for years, with many advocating for a permanent bridge while others prefer year-round ferry access to the island for the first time.

While acknowledging that all options are on the table until the consultants complete their work and a final plan is completed in early 2013, White said that a bridge across a narrow section of the channel would be “easy to visualize.”

“People love walking on the seawall and to add Newcastle Island to their walk would be an incredible thing,” he said.