City of Parksville says wetlands will not be logged for proposed aquatic and recreation centre

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The City of Parksville has put out a media release to address inaccuracies on social media about the proposed aquatic and recreation centre.

It said the proposed site at the end of Despard Avenue is not located on wetlands and, although there are 90 acres of wetland to the north, it said it does not expect the project to impact the area.

“The wetlands will not be logged. The proposed location assists with preserving second-growth trees to the south of the site as noted in the environmental overview assessment report, prepared by WSP Canada,” said Deb Tardiff, manager of communications for the city, in the release.

The release said most of the facility will be located on non-parkland parcels owned by the city. A 0.8 hectare, or less than two acres, section of park shows potential for parking and access to the multiplex facility, according to the city. 

Coun. Doug O’Brien spoke out in opposition to the proposed site at the end of Despard Avenue at council’s May 17 meeting.

“The problem is there is no way to mitigate clearcutting nine acres of property, of treed area, of wild forest and park. There’s also no way of mitigating the fact that there’s nine acres of concrete and asphalt that’s going to cover that surface,” O’Brien said.

Mayor Ed Mayne said the project could be one of the most positive things to ever happen in Parksville.

“Nobody said we were going to clearcut forest. Nobody said that we were going to pour nine acres of concrete. We will look at all of that and when we get the experts to give us the advice, then we can make a decision,” Mayne said.

Golder-WSP will conduct a preliminary site assessment of a location at the end of Despard Avenue. The site was selected by a council vote as the test site for conceptual design and further consideration. Golder-WSP is an affiliate branch of WSP Canada and provides specialized hydrogeological and environmental expertise. 

Phase One will cost $125,000 and will include ecological assessments, a hydrogeological assessment, a geotechnical assessment, a civil engineering assessment and a land analysis report. 

“$125,000 for first phase of the study, plus a further $161,000 for phase 2. This site is getting expensive, folks. It’s getting very expensive and we haven’t got the public’s approval that they’re going to want to do this,” O’Brien said.

The city said project consultants have started their work and over the next two weeks details will be provided, which will include timelines for assessments and public engagement.

“Council can reconsider its decision if there are compelling technical reasons and if community input suggests a willingness to incur extra costs for acquiring private lands or upgrading offsite infrastructure to serve alternate sites,” reads the release.

The city said its intent is to enhance the watercourse features and explore options to enhance the wetland features to the north.

An environmental overview assessment completed by WSP in February for the Despard site indicated the watercourses in the project area do not interact with the wetland features. The channels enter the city’s storm system at Despard Avenue, the release said.

An advisory technical working group will assist the public and council by reviewing the technical aspects of the design construction and operation of the project and to provide neutral expert advice on the recommendations contained in the consultant reports.

Council also authorized the city to hire HDR Architecture Associates to carry out the public consultation and engagement strategy for the proposed centre.

Besides the location at the end of Despard Avenue, potential sites at Parksville Community Park, Island Highway and Pym Street, Wembley Mall, Parksville Elementary School and Tuan Road are under consideration

The area is designated as community use in Plan Parksville, the city’s official community plan, which supports the proposed use of the site for a community recreational amenity.

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