A Port Alberni city councillor wants to see some “crude” pilings at one of the city’s waterfront parks transformed into a functioning pier, but other councillors are undecided about the project.
Councillor John Douglas brought forward his proposal during a regular council meeting on Monday, Sept. 11 to transform the pilings at Canal Waterfront Park, also known as Canal Beach, into a pier and floating dock that residents and visitors can enjoy.
Douglas told the rest of council that a pier presents an opportunity for informational kiosks with historical and marine life facts about Port Alberni, as well as an opportunity for Indigenous and marine artwork.
He made two motions on Monday. The first directed city staff to salvage and reclaim materials from the redevelopment of the Somass Lands which could be used for pier improvements at Canal Beach, as well as other city projects. Douglas explained that using materials reclaimed from the Somass Lands will allow the city to keep budget costs low.
He also made a motion asking staff to collaborate with Tseshaht First Nation to develop a comprehensive plan for Canal Beach. The waterfront park is adjacent to Polly’s Point, a Tseshaht First Nation reserve.
“The essence of these two motions is simply to allow for a beginning of this pier project,” said Douglas. “What these motions will provide for is the building of what can become a very valuable partnership between the city, the Tseshaht First Nation, our Industrial Heritage Society and several other members of our community.”
He explained that he has already had some “informal” discussions with Tseshaht First Nation about the project, but city administration has not been involved yet.
Douglas has advocated for developing Canal Beach as a waterfront park for more than a decade. He was mayor of Port Alberni in 2013 when council agreed to spend money and clean up the former Alberni Plywood land to create a beach. The plan gained traction when Wild West Watersports kiteboarding business used the site before the previous pier deck was dismantled.
Councillors agreed on Sept. 11 to support Douglas’s first motion, as it is vague enough to apply to other relevant city projects.
“I don’t see any issue in having staff keep their eyes peeled for materials that might be beneficial to city projects,” said Coun. Dustin Dame.
However, councillors were torn on the second part of the motion. Councillor Debbie Haggard said that council’s focus over the next few years is going to be the redevelopment of the Somass properties, and the pier project will take away staff time and city funds.
“I think it would be a very time-consuming process to identify odds and sods and pieces of wood that could be used for a possible pier project,” she said. “While I think this is a good project, it was not identified when we did our strategic planning process, so it has not been identified by council as a strategic priority.”
Coun. Todd Patola, who was acting as mayor on Sept. 22, said he was uncomfortable consulting only with Tseshaht First Nation and not with Hupacasath First Nation, as well.
Council agreed to defer the discussion about the pier project until 2024 budget discussions.
— With files from Susie Quinn, Alberni Valley News