City to create ecological reserve zone on Despard Avenue

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The City of Parksville will create an ecological reserve zone at the end of Despard Avenue, after determining it is not a suitable site for a proposed aquatic and recreation centre.

City staff will work with the Ministry of Environment to properly classify the area, document its ecological values and enter into a joint covenant, which prohibits disturbance of vulnerable ecological features without prior approval from the ministry and council, according to a media release from the city. 

The area will be added to a newly created ecological reserve zone with regulations to protect the environmental values identified on the property and permit public access for passive recreational purposes.

The city said there have been misunderstandings about the exact location of the site and status of the lands. The area is currently fee simple lands, not within a park, not affected by any covenant and not protected in trust with an agreement with a First Nation, according to the city.

“This is not the wetland feature already mapped and identified 400 metres northwest of the area,” reads the release.

For phase 1 of the feasibility study, the Despard Avenue location was initially chosen as a test site for conceptual design purposes. Council stated it would not pursue the site if there were technical reasons which precluded the site from being developed for the intended purpose or if the costs to remediate the site were expected to be onerous. 

Following assessments completed by WSP Canada in 2020 and earlier this year, council agreed the Despard site is no longer a consideration for the multiplex project location. About $70,000 was spent from the $125,000 allocated to the full technical analysis. The balance of the grant money will be reassigned to studying alternative sites, according to the city.

“The site was chosen based on multiple planning criteria and preliminary independent technical reports which stated the site was feasible, but required additional study to confirm constraints,” said Mayor Ed Mayne. “Council voted to investigate the site fully to determine suitability, before committing residents to potentially paying millions of dollars for the acquisition of a new site.”

Mayne added council used grant funds to undertake the analysis and, regardless of whether the site was suitable for the pool facility, the technical information is valuable as the city prepares long-term plans for public lands.

Council unanimously approved, at its Sept. 20 meeting, a resolution to work with the ministry to protect the area identified in a report by WSP Canada.

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