Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

Proposed amendments to the Regional District of Nanaimo’s parks bylaw will head to the board in the coming months, including changes to permit and campground fees. RDN staff provided a list of proposed changes to the board at their Dec. 12 meeting; the board then directed staff to return an amended parks use regulation bylaw for a vote.

Changes include an increase to camping and booking fees for Horne Lake Regional Park and Descanso Bay Regional Park, including a $2 per night campground improvement fee that can be used for future repair and/or replacement of campground amenities.

New signage for RDN sport courts specifying permitted uses is also proposed. Each sign will cost approximately $400 to produce and install. The proposed permitted uses for Huxley Community Park, based on design and historical use, are ball hockey, lacrosse, basketball and pickleball. Special use permits could be issued to allow other uses at parks temporarily, a staff report says.

Special park access permit fees are recommended to increase between $10 and $250 in some cases. The RDN issues permits for programs and events, filming, conducting research, installation/removal of utilities and gaining access to adjacent land.

Some directors raised concerns that the fee increases could create barriers to small non-profit groups holding programs such as nature walks in parks. A new $10 application fee is proposed for non-profit services for less than 100 people and under while $100 is suggested for non-profit activities for over 100. A permit fee of $100, up $75 for non-profit programs for between 50 and 100 people, and a fee of $250, an extra $225, for over 100 people is suggested. Damage deposits are also proposed to increase for non-profit activities for less than 50 people and upward.

Electoral Area B Director Vanessa Craig asked, for example, if a group such as GROWLs on Gabriola who would need to pay the new proposed fees to continue bat-box viewing walks in Coats Marsh Regional Park.

“I would hate to see these small groups who really work for the benefit of our communities to be forestalled from doing that type of good work,” Craig said.

RDN parks and recreation general manager, Tom Osbourne, said under the proposed changes they would be required to pay the permit fee but added “there’s a lot of considerations that take place at time of permit,” suggesting that the parks manager has flexibility in decision-making based on what is written in the bylaw.

Electoral Area A Director Jessica Stanley wanted to know more about how the information around fees would be communicated to the public, saying if it is not clear there is opportunity for discussion about fees with staff then it could deter groups from approaching the RDN to run activities in parks.

An updated report with revised bylaw amendments will come to the board for review this winter, staff confirmed.

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