Beach access stairs installed for Whalebone and Decourcey

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, October 16 2019

The Regional District of Nanaimo has spent this summer installing new stairs at two water access points in the Whalebone area, as well as installing a new set of stairs from Decourcey Road to Turtle Rock.

In 2017, the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) closed four water accesses in the Whalebone area because the stairs were no longer considered safe for members of the public to use.

Since then, three of those accesses have been re-opened, the only one left closed (now permanently) is the former beach access at the far end of Joyce Lockwood Community Park.

At Bluewhale Community Park - accessed off Blue Whale Lookout or Killer Whale Lookout - the RDN has now installed a retractable staircase which will be pulled up for the winter so it doesn’t suffer the same storm damage as previous stairs.

In Hummingbird Community Park - accessed off Whalebone Drive across from Starbuck Lane - the previous access has been replaced with a new set of box stairs leading down to the beach.

Yann Gagnon, Manager of RDN Parks, and Elaine McCulloch, RDN Park Planner for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, DeCourcy islands), were reporting to the Area B Parks and Open Spaces Advisory Committee (POSAC) on October 7.

The stairs installed at Bluewhale Community Park have been pulled up for the winter. Derek Kilbourn photo.

When they described the retractable stairs installed at Blue Whale Community Park, POSAC members asked if that was a potential solution for the access into Spring Beach.

In 2018, the RDN removed all of its stairs from Spring Beach, as the infrastructure there was consistently being damaged by winter storms.

While it won’t be a solution this year, McCulloch said that a retractable set of stairs, or more likely a combination with a retractable ramp, could be considered for Spring Beach.

If it could be installed there, it would be on some kind of rail with the ramp on castors.

Being able to do that, she said, would mean not having to pour concrete at the bottom of the access, as concrete would require more permits.

McCulloch was asked if retractable stairs would be a possible solution for the Joyce Lockwood situation.

With the RDN stairs now completely removed, the only way down to the beach is for people to exit the park by 20 feet onto the federal lands adjacent to Joyce Lockwood Park where there is a gradual sloped trail down to the beach.

McCulloch said that aside from the difficulty of getting equipment into Joyce Lockwood to install retractable stairs, there were geotechnical instabilities at the stair site which precluded installation of any infrastructure.

She has attempted to make contact with the federal government about getting an agreement to utilize the trail outside the Lockwood boundaries but, as of yet, has not heard back from federal representatives.