ELENA RARDON PHOTO                                Helen Townsend and Maddie Owen watch from the shore as a group of Dragon Boaters leaves Canal Waterfront Park on Sunday.

ELENA RARDON PHOTO Helen Townsend and Maddie Owen watch from the shore as a group of Dragon Boaters leaves Canal Waterfront Park on Sunday.

Port Alberni Kiwanis Club presents plans for Canal Waterfront Park

Club wants to transform underdeveloped beach into recreational park

The Port Alberni Kiwanis Club is working on transforming the area formerly known as Canal Beach into a recreational waterfront park for the community.

Kiwanis Club president Greg Holland presented the club’s vision to city council during their Monday, April 24 meeting.

“We approached Theresa Kingston to see what the city of Port Alberni needed or wanted but did not have the budget to complete,” said Holland.

He is now referring to the area as “Canal Waterfront Park,” and explained the idea behind the name change.

“A beach is a place where people go to swim and lay down and suntan,” he said. “A beach is a place that has sand. Canal Waterfront Park doesn’t have any natural sand of its own. But it is a place where people can go and play and enjoy themselves.”

Holland said he believes the area has great potential as a recreational area. It just needs a little development.

“Right now it’s a barren piece of land,” he said. “It has the potential to serve the community as a park. The name should reflect the purpose. And I would propose that we start referring to it as the waterfront park.”

The Kiwanis Club has investigated and applied for a $77,000 grant from the Co-Op Community Spaces to develop the park, and has also earmarked $11,000 from last year’s Salmon Festival to jumpstart the process of park development.

“We’re not coming to you looking for money,” he promised council on Monday.

Holland envisions a sand volleyball court on the south end of the park, as well as picnic tables. “Basically low-cost items,” he said. “We want to be able to send people in there, volunteers, to clean up the park. Really make it kind of a nice area.”

The club has also ordered a recreational park box for the area.

“A park box is an industrial-sized box containing sports equipment and toys,” explained Holland. “It will contain things that people can just pick up and start an activity with.”

The park box would contain items like sports balls, frisbees, maybe even a frisbee golf set, ultimate frisbee, badminton set, botchee balls, or chess boards. “The equipment in the box would change as the public tells us what they’re using and what they’re not using,” Holland said.

He explained, “Many families don’t have money to participate in organized sports, and this would give them a place to enjoy the outdoors, the sun as a family. It would also provide another place for our youth to gather and be involved in physical activity.”

Holland envisions people being able to access the box using an access code, potentially provided by Echo Centre after filling out a registration form. “People can access the box for free, anytime the park’s open,” he said. “It would be an honour utilization system.”

Some of the higher cost items for the park Holland would like to see, if Kiwanis is successful in their grant, is a structurally sound gazebo with solar panels for picnics.

“It could also be someplace where we could host entertainment events, maybe a concert on the waterfront,” he said.

The club is also looking at additional grants to install washroom facilities.

“There is no maintenance involved in a natural park, other than locking the gate and periodically checking the equipment to make sure that it’s still there,” said Holland. “That’s the beauty of the thing, is it’s a low maintenance facility.”

Holland said, ultimately, he wants to provide a place for youth and their family to go, free of charge.

“We also envision turning this transformation into a community event,” he said. “Where citizens and their families will want to go and help out in the restoration of the area.”