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Chemainus lays out its wish list for downtown revitalization

Residents say the revitalization of downtown Chemainus should include waterfront access, Willow Street development and new infrastructure such as a library, skateboard park and community centre.

These ideas and more were discussed at an open house meeting June 23, where the Chemainus Advisory Committee, made up of residents, business owners and members of the Municipality of North Cowichan, presented the results of their June 16 workshop.

“It’s a real shopping list of ideas and we know for sure the municipality is not going to be able to do all those things. So the process we’re going through now is to find out what are the priorities,” said Doug Backhouse of HB Lanarc, the consulting firmed hired to oversee the town’s revitalization plan.

The meeting, held at the Chemainus Legion, was attended by more than 90 residents. After a presentation on the committee’s ideas, which also included parking considerations, the Chemainus Road corridor and Benchlands development, the floor was opened to commentary.

Business owner Ward Yeagar said he felt a consensus among residents about what direction they’d like to see the plan take.

“The municipality has ignored it for over 10 years with no capital investment and other communities; Qualicum Beach, Sidney, Comox have all invested millions in their downtown core revitalize, leaving our business community at a huge competitive disadvantage,” he said.

“Our advantage is the arts, so we need to stress that in any redevelopment.”

“As a resident, I think that developing our waterfront would be good for residents, but it would also be good from a business industry perspective,” he added.

“We know how many people want to come to a community where they have the ability to enjoy the beach... so a boardwalk that would join from the marina to Kin beach would be helpful.”

Susan Beaubier said she was encouraged by the meeting and said the municipality was doing the right thing by consulting the community.

“It’s time to see something concrete come out of it and I know it doesn’t come easily,” she said.

Beaubier likes the idea of keeping the focus on recreation to keep residents living in the town while attracting tourists.  She also agreed that waterfront access was a key issue.

“I think it’s criminal that we don’t have more public access because it’s such a beautiful area,” she said.

While her first priority is the preservation of Echo Heights forest, resident Diana Hardacker said she would like to see strong efforts on the skateboard park and Benchlands property.

“We have been talking about putting a skateboard park in this community for years, it is time to just bloody well do it,” she said.

“One thing that needs to be brought back is the kiosk in Waterwheel Park, that was awesome for tourists.”

Backhouse said the next step will be to identify the key priorities for revitalization and start to develop a more comprehensive plan for them.

“I think people really like Chemainus the way it is and they want to build on the parts that are successful,” he said.

For more information on the project and the findings presented, visit www.ourchemainus.ca

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