Public engagement for the City of Port Alberni’s Connect the Quays pathway project drew hundreds of responses, both in favour of and opposed to the walkway.
Michele Cloghesy from PWL Partnership Landscape Architects Inc. was in Port Alberni city council chambers on Monday, Nov. 22 to discuss the results from public engagement earlier this year.
She said that, generally, the response from the community was positive. A survey—both on paper and online—had 432 respondents, while consultants and city staff engaged with an estimated 500 people in person during open houses and pop-up events. Cloghesy said it was an “amazing” response.
“Far more than any survey I’ve ever been involved in,” she said. “People are really engaged.”
Results from the survey and in-person engagement showed that the segment of the path from Redford Street to Harbour Quay was the highest priority for construction. The city recently purchased the former Somass Sawmill lands along this corridor to allow for some waterfront access.
“We heard loud and clear that the community wants more access to the waterfront,” said Cloghesy.
When asked how often people anticipate using the pathway, the majority of respondents (181) answered “weekly” while 56 people said they would use it daily and 59 people would use it every month. Another 143 respondents answered with “other” in response to this question.
“Most of the people who said ‘other’ weren’t in favour of it at all,” said Cloghesy.
Survey respondents were concerned about maintenance and safety, both in terms of road crossings and crime in the area. Cloghesy summarized that people want a safe, comfortable route to walk along.
“There’s not a lot of walking going on in this community right now,” said Cloghesy. “This is a new opportunity for this link to be something people are really proud of.”
There were many comments about the need for a new aquatic centre, but Cloghesy pointed out that this is not an either/or situation—the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District hired a consultant earlier this year for the first steps of replacing the community’s aging pool.
Some people were also concerned about the rail infrastructure along the route. The city has engaged with both the Island Corridor Foundation and the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society throughout its planning process, and says no usable rail infrastructure will be destroyed or removed anywhere along the pathway route.
PWL will be putting together a final report with all of the public feedback before the city moves onto the “final stages” of planning.
The overall budget for the Connect the Quays project is just over $7.2M, with $3M coming from the city’s budget and $4M coming from grant funding (if approved).