Huxley Park still on hold as RDN awaits news of government grants

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, February 19 2020

The Regional District of Nanaimo Parks Department has yet to receive word on whether grants will be received to fund the completion of Huxley Community Park redevelopment.

That redevelopment includes the construction of the long-awaited Gabriola Skatepark, as well as a parking lot with a reduced number of stalls as per the request of the Islands Trust.

This news came at the regular meeting of the Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, DeCourcy) Parks and Open Spaces Advisory Committee (POSAC), held on February 10 on Gabriola at the GAC Hall.

Yann Gagnon, Manager of RDN Parks Services, Recreation and Parks Department, said the good news is that the RDN hasn’t “received a formal letter saying we are not going to receive a grant - I cannot say we will or not. No news is sometimes good news.”

Gagnon said the grant - which is jointly administered by the provincial and federal governments - requires federal approval. He said his supervisor at RDN Parks met with federal ministers and discussed the specific grant but, so far, there have been no announcements - possibly due to the federal election at the end of 2019.

Elaine McCulloch, RDN Parks Planner, said her department is continuing to work, “imagining we are going to get the grant - so we are poised to take action on the project.”

She said she has recently met with the GERTIE bus board to ensure that what the RDN is doing at Huxley will meet with their needs.

A meeting with Islands Trust staff was also in the works, to complete the requirements of the Development Variance Permit required for the RDN to develop Huxley as planned. McCulloch had made changes to the parking lot design to reduce the number of trees which are removed as part of the new parking lot - six parking spaces are now proposed instead of ten. There is a proposed tree replacement plan as well, with the RDN proposing to plant four Douglas Fir seedlings for every tree that is removed from Huxley.

McCulloch is also getting a tender ready for the Huxley work.

Vanessa Craig said she has had discussions on the grant with federal and provincial representatives (MP Paul Manly and MLA Doug Routley). She acknowledged that the further it is delayed, the more it can impact the project.

It was pointed out there are the monies fundraised by the Keep on Pushin’ fundraising campaign, as well as monies the RDN has set aside for Huxley. Craig and the RDN staff were asked at the POSAC meeting if that money could be used to start work on Huxley - such as preparing the site for construction. Gagnon said if the question was would they be cutting down trees years before they have the ability to start building - they probably wouldn’t do that.

He was asked if there is any discussion on a Plan B - other than waiting - in the event the RDN does not receive the grant. Gagnon said, “We need an answer first, before spending time on Plan B.”

Craig said, “Plan B would need staff time - if we get refused. If we can get more community contribution to site prep or supplies, that could bring the cost to the RDN down.”

Gagnon said the amount of the grant is so big, that “we really need an answer.”

To construct the skatepark will cost approximately $560,000 (including contingency and inflation costs). The total budget for completion of Huxley Park is $773,700. This includes the skatepark, the parking lot, and any other improvements the RDN has not yet completed in the park.

The RDN has budgeted $55,000 to come out of the Area B Community Parks Budget Reserves.It has budgeted $121,346 to come out of the Area B Community Parks Budget Operation Funds, split over two years. 

To obtain the balance required to complete all of Huxley Park, in January of 2019 the RDN applied for two different grants in the hope it would receive one of those grants.

 The first was the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) Community, Culture and Recreation Program (CCR). The second grant applied for was the Rural and Northern Communities Program (RNC). The CCR fund would provide up to 73.33 per cent of funding for approved projects (so up to $567,354 on the $773,115 amount), and the RNC - if approved - would fund up to 100 per cent for communities like Gabriola with less than 5000 people.