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Valley’s Mill Stone Park set to open this year

Plans do not include installation of historic focal point sign
The new site of the historic millstones, between Catalyst Paper and Victoria Quay. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Mill Stone Park is set to open this summer, although it may not look the way the city had originally imagined it.

The proposed park will be built around the historic concrete millstones that are currently sitting between Catalyst Paper and Victoria Quay. The millstones previously stood on Catalyst Paper property for more than 50 years.

The city had $150,000 listed in their supplementary projects list for Mill Stone Park improvements in 2017, $140,000 of which would be from taxation.

The majority of this cost, explained parks operations supervisor Jake Colyn, comes from the historic focal point sign, which used to welcome visitors coming into the city. The sign was discovered unprotected a few years ago and donated to the city from the Chamber of Commerce, after which it was moved to the city works yard for repairs.

“We have the sign actually in our shop. It’s curing, our fellas had done good work to secure it together,” said Colyn during a March 8 meeting of council. “We had some discussion about refinishing it. It will never be as pristine as it was originally, but intact and refaced.

“At this point to make the structures to put up the old focal point sign…that needs engineering work and that’s something that’s being pursued and developed.”

The city made an application to Canada 150 for a grant of approximately $150,000 for the project, but were unsuccessful in the funding. Colyn suggested an alternative cost to get the site open would be $25,000.

“To realistically open the park to use, I’m proposing that we basically do the soft landscape, the parking area, the grass area,” he said. “About 800 square feet of concrete plaza around where the current millstones are.”

The city was able to move the millstones to the new site for less than they budgeted last year, also installing a base for an observation pier and added amenities such as water connection.

“I think we did really good with the initial amount of money that we had,” said Colyn.

He said that $25,000 would allow the park to be usable by late spring or early summer, although it would not include the focal sign or any other interpretive structures.

“It’s interesting how initially this was supposed to have been a park that was created for no real cost for the city, and it’s become the city’s project,” said Mayor Mike Ruttan. “It’s a great project, don’t get me wrong.”

Councillor Jack McLeman wanted to look into completing the park through memorial donations and plaques. He called it a “high profile” project that had a chance of sponsorships. “I think if we do it properly we can get it done that way. I don’t think it needs to be on the budget for very much this year.” He proposed changing $25,000 to $10,000.

Colyn clarified that some of the $25,000 would be incorporating sponsorships that have already been committed to the park, but he confirmed that a budget of $10,000 could get the park open this year.

“We’d have it safe and it would be a little bit plain, bland,” he said. “We could work with it. There may not be trees and a few of those details.”

Council agreed to allocate $10,000 in the 2017-2021 financial plan for improvements to Mill Stone Park in 2017, with further donations and sponsorships being pursued.

Elena Rardon

About the Author: Elena Rardon

I have worked with the Alberni Valley News since 2016.
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