We asked for your input - and boy, did you respond. Nanaimo Daily News readers were asked to offer their opinions on a potential "iconic" tourist attraction for their city. All of the ideas and comments were forwarded along to the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, and they promised to consider them as part of their tourism strategic plan. A small sampling (comments are abridged - many readers had multiple fine ideas):
I've always thought that there should be a waterslide in Nanaimo. On hot summer days a waterslide would bring families from all over the Island, not just tourists. It would be a great place for summer parties.
Also the ferry to Newcastle is way too expensive for the average family to go over. A bridge to the island would be great and a small toll to cross ($2 or $3 per person) would be much more reasonable.
To me the big thing is the harbour and working to make that even more than it is now our "iconic" attraction. The problem is one of jurisdiction: The port authority sits on prime land that should be developed to make Nanaimo a great modern small city that incorporates and respects its heritage. The trick is how to do it. In other cities in Canada port authorities and railway companies have collaborated with civic authorities to develop such property (i.e., underutilized industrial properties). In Nanaimo, there's no discussion and no effort. It's amazing and it's wrong.
Most tourists, I think, come in the summer and early fall, so (there could be) transportation service with a guide, maybe to take them to some of our local parks (Neck Point, Piper's Lagoon, Morrell Sanctuary, Westwood Lake). It would be a nice excursion.
I also think the old A&B Sound building downtown would be a very good location for a flea market or like a Lonsdale Market.
I have had this idea for long time. Maybe others have as well.
Having once lived in White Rock, I was able to enjoy their beautiful 1,500-foot pier that wanders so magnificently out into the bay of White Rock.
They have a beautiful bay and they enhanced it with a beautiful wharf or promenade.
We have a beautiful bay here in Nanaimo. A natural beauty, a gem.
Would not a wharf similar to the one in White Rock be a wonderful way to enhance this natural beauty? If you have ever been to White Rock, you know of all the ice cream shops, coffee shops, fish and chip shops, boutiques, etc. that line their beachfront street to accommodate the throngs of people who come to walk the pier.
I've been talking for years about a gondola to the top of Mount Benson; doubt if that's going to happen any time soon, and it's financially impractical at the moment. But you have to ask yourself, what does Nanaimo have that no one else has? We have a beautiful harbour and a unique downtown. It seems to me that this is where we need to concentrate and build on what we have already been doing. The thing is, we need to break out of our innate conservatism. We are so darn careful.
We need to reclaim the whole waterfront. We need to build a multiplex/hotel next to the cruise terminal and then make the whole section from the terminal to downtown a funky, interesting, retail, walking area.
We need to get rid of industry on the waterfront, move it all to Duke Point where it belongs and then extend the waterfront walkway as far as we conceivably can in both directions. Enlist the First Nations, build that walkway through the First Nations lands and have a wonderful First Nations retail/entertainment/history/discovery segment.
Most tourists are heading up the Nanaimo Parkway, bypassing Nanaimo as they head to Parksville, Coombs, Cathedral Grove etc.
What is needed is a viewpoint that would act as a magnet to direct visitors downtown to our amazing waterfront.
Such a viewpoint location exists and is located above VIU on the upper side of the Parkway. Access to it would be via the road to College Heights.
Once that site is developed visitors would take one look at the view of Nanaimo Harbour with Newcastle and Protection Islands in the background and they would then want to go and explore the area and the downtown.
Signs outlining the sites on a map and other tourist information about Nanaimo would further help to direct and inform visitors.
The biggest problem is cruise ships come into an industrial area with no close-by tourist attractions.
A possible solution is to do like Chemainus or Victoria and meet them at the dock with a horsedrawn carriage and/or larger cart.
They could then be taken on a leisurely tour of the downtown area, the Old City Quarter, on to Bowen Park returning to the waterfront area for lunch at Trollers, the Lighthouse Bistro or just shopping at the shops.
There would be limited expenses (the horses and the cart or carriage). It would keep the tourists in Nanaimo as well as there spending money.
My husband and I have been cycling the "rail trails" across our province for the past few years. We have covered a lot of the Kettle Valley Railway as well as many other trails around the Okanagan and the Kootenays. We have driven to Duncan many times to ride the many trails in the Cowichan Valley.
Is it really worth it to spend millions of dollars on the E&N so one train can travel on it once or twice a day? I say turn it into a rail trail, what a great tourist attraction. So many baby boomers are riding bikes these days, cycling has become the exercise of many folks who don't want to stress their old knees.
Come stay in Nanaimo and ride our beautiful trail to Parksville and back, it would be fantastic. I'm sure that this would be very popular, I know I sure would love it.
Instead of putting $35,000,000 into our railway system, why don't we pay a fraction of that amount to have somebody take away all of the railway ties and track, smooth it all out and use it for biking from end to end? I don't know how many people use the old Kettle Valley bike lanes in the Okanagan, but I would say it is a major tourist pull from all over the region and tourists love it.
I would suggest widening the seawall between the Millstone estuary and the Nanaimo Yacht Club.
Put in more parking, raise the sea bed out over some of the mud flats, and truck in some sand.
Build some shade palapas, or beach umbrellas. Maybe allow a food stand.
I know there are cons to this idea, you're going to kill a few sand worms and some sick oysters, but that area is very underutilized and would make a nice beach as in Parksville, or Second Beach Vancouver.
Of course if we just want to attract people, we will need an amusement park like Six Flags U.S.A., with roller coasters, water slides, rides and cotton candy.
Maybe not at the beach though.
The idea is to have a "submarine" system established, based on the principle we have seen at the West Edmonton Mall. A "railroad" track in the Newcastle channel running from east to west. This submarine "run" should not interfere with marine traffic or air traffic and can be used year-round.
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