Ann and Glenn Bainbridge check out the new temporary Somass waterfront walkway that opened July 1, 2022. The path is 250 metres long and will be open from dawn to dusk. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Ann and Glenn Bainbridge check out the new temporary Somass waterfront walkway that opened July 1, 2022. The path is 250 metres long and will be open from dawn to dusk. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

New Somass lands walkway well received in Port Alberni

City opened 250-metre waterfront path in time for Canada Day

A new walkway that appeared on the waterfront at the Somass lands was well received by walkers on Canada Day.

The City of Port Alberni surprised residents Thursday, June 30 with the announcement that a 250-metre fenced path would open to the public on July 1.

“We didn’t say we were doing it,” Mayor Sharie Minions said.

“It’s approaching 11 months since we purchased the property. When we did purchase the property (five pieces comprising 73 acres in August 2021) we had big, long-term goals that we hope aren’t too long-term—the sooner the better. Our priority in purchasing the lands was public access to waterfront,” she said.

“Very early on we realized we could do that prior to a major development happening, and prior to remediation of the main site where the contamination lies as well.”

City staff from the parks and public works departments as well as contractors started cleaning up that corner of the lot “early on,” but staff changes meant the work stalled. It was only recently that they were able to get back to it, which is why the announcement was made at the last minute, she said. Some materials like security fencing and bark mulch were repurposed from elsewhere on the site.

The walkway is 12 metres (40 feet) wide and 250 metres long. Access is through a gate at Tyee Landing, near the fuel dock, and it will only be open during daylight hours. Access is multi-modal, allowing for pedestrians, wheelchairs, bicycles and scooters. No motor vehicles are permitted.

“We are hoping to keep it open so people can enjoy it in the cooler parts of the evening. However, it will be closed and the gate locked prior to it getting dark,” Minions said.

A number of people strolled the walkway after the Canada Day parade on July 1

Glenn and Ann Bainbridge walked the path for the first time in the late morning. “My first thought is it’s nice the land is in use,” said Glenn.

“We’re totally on board for the pathway. It was smart to give this tester,” said Ann Bainbridge. “As new residents, this is part of what enticed us to move to this town. It’s a gem and so much potential to develop.”

Timothy and Jo Gislason live within sight of the Somass lands, and also checked out the new walkway. They moved to the Alberni Valley from Windsor, Ontario just over a year ago, and chose Port Alberni specifically for its location and growth potential. “It’s wonderful to have this quiet place,” Jo Gislason said.

The couple said the walkway could use a bench at the end and a sign at the beginning to let people know it’s there and when it will be open. Minions said city staff predicted people would ask for benches and garbage cans, and added that the walkway is a work in progress.

The pathway cost approximately $40,000 including staff time, and was budgeted for 2022. “We had a Somass fund in our budget of about $200,000, which was envisioned to go toward small projects like this, beginning little bits of cleanup and security as well,” Minions said.

Minions stressed that this walkway is not part of the formal Connect the Quays pathway that the city has proposed.

It will “one day” be part of a loop option to the pathway route, which is at the design stage.

“This was an easy way to get people to the waterfront, enabling access to the waterfront for the public, which is really a cornerstone in our strategic plan.”



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

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Jo and Timothy Gislason, left, look at the scenery from the waterfront walkway that opened on the Somass lands July 1, 2022. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Jo and Timothy Gislason, left, look at the scenery from the waterfront walkway that opened on the Somass lands July 1, 2022. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Walkers check out the new Somass walkway that opened on July 1, 2022, following the Canada Day parade. The walkway is accessible from Tyee Landing. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Walkers check out the new Somass walkway that opened on July 1, 2022, following the Canada Day parade. The walkway is accessible from Tyee Landing. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)