Campbell River neighbourhood becoming more varied, visible and valuable

By John Twigg

As the Campbellton Neighbourhood Association (CNA) goes through its fifth year (or so) of existence, its activities are becoming more varied, visible and valuable.

The CNA began as an ad hoc collection of community activists and business leaders and focused on issues like crosswalks, crime, graffiti and improving the Myrt Thompson Trail as well as pushing the concept of mounting a float plane on a pedestal as a tourist attraction.

Initially the group was co-chaired by Campbellton business operators Jim de Hart (Destiny River Adventures) and Brian Shaw (Mackie Research) but de Hart had to depart for business reasons and when the CNA formally incorporated as a not-for-profit society, Shaw became the sole chair and the other executive members became a variety of business people, residents and policy activists, and soon the CNA’s issues and activities expanded greatly too.

One of its first and perhaps most important improvements was a major clampdown on graffiti and street crimes, which not many people have noticed but which has lasted thanks to improved communications between the CNA and the local RCMP.

Another early gain was improved crosswalks and some new sidewalks, better traffic controls with a new set of lights at 14th and Petersen, and over the last two years, at the CNA’s behest, several dozen new streetlights are being installed by the City and B.C. Hydro to replace or augment the antiquated ones in what is arguably the oldest neighbourhood in the city (apart from the First Nations settlements, of course).

While some progress has been made on the Myrt Thompson Trail improvements concept, thanks to a major land use and planning study done jointly by and for the city and CNA, the full implementation of a new and improved public access strategy has been delayed (it lacks adequate parking) and is awaiting what the Wei Wai Kum First Nation may or may not do with their large parcel of vacant land adjacent to the shoreline trail (the trail is under city control and CRIB’s property development plan will depend on the supply of city services, which gives the City some input into the design).

Probably the most visible sign of changes in Campbellton has been the CNA’s installation in the last two years of about 60 artistic banners on streetlight poles along the highways that run through Campbellton, all of which involve First Nations images of salmon and some of which were designed by Curtis Wilson, currently also acting chief of CRIB. Funding for the banners was provided by the City.

Flower planters revived

This year, with the aid of a Beautification Grant from the City, the CNA was able to rejuvenate about 40 flower planter boxes along the Old Island Highway (Campbellton’s main commercial street) and plant them with colorful petunias and other attractive flowers, which are being kept watered mainly by CNA volunteers as well as by some of the businesses nearby. (The planters were about the only legacy from the now-defunct Campbellton Business Association.)

Another very important, though less visible, achievement of the CNA was the creation two years ago of the Campbellton Community Garden, in which the city leased a large plot of parks land at 1751, 15th Ave. to the CNA and authorized the installation of about 40 rentable garden plots in what was formerly a little-used playground. An old swing and other playground equipment was removed and replaced with new equipment in a better fenced-off corner.

Though the new garden is a bit hard to find (it’s off of Petersen Road, behind some trees and is fenced off), it has been a major success for its users (including the Food Bank and gardeners from other parts of Campbell River as well as a variety of local residents). It also has generated lots of media coverage in the Mirror, online and in a documentary film produced by the CNA.

Garden hosts public events

The garden site was used last year to host a fund-raising barbecue and free music event on the first Campbellton Day (a one-day affair on B.C. Day) and this year the garden again will be the focal point, this time for Campbellton Days plural beginning Friday night Aug. 4 and running through to the evening of B.C. Day on Monday Aug. 7.

One of the new features in the community garden open house this year will be the cash sales of fresh produce from the community garden plots of participating gardeners as well as from other urban agriculture producers (e.g. back yard gardeners with too much lettuce or too many cherries or other excess produce (e.g. eggs?). [To book a vendor’s table call John Twigg at 778-348-0747].

In keeping with that urban agriculture theme, local food sustainability activist Morgan Ostler will give a public talk on food strategies in the garden on Monday afternoon (Aug. 7) plus she will sing a newly-written song on the same topic.

Beaver floatplane feature

Other projects being pushed by the CNA also have been making good progress, especially the so-called Entrance Feature that involves the assembly by Sealand Aviation of an actual Beaver float plane, the parts for which are now all on hand at their airport hangar and being put together at Sealand’s own expense.

Jonathan Calderwood of Grant Signs has organized funding for the aircraft’s pedestal in the parcel of vacant land on 14th Avenue between the north and southbound lanes of the inland Island Highway.

The plane site will be accompanied by parking spaces, entrance and egress lanes and probably signage and other information directing travellers to amenities and attractions throughout Campbell River; the 14th Avenue route to downtown is frequently used by traffic from the highway and the airport.

New riverfront parklet

Also coming from the CNA is a plan to install a small park at the eastern end of Spruce Street on the shore of the Campbell River.

Until recently, the space was overgrown with blackberry bushes and was being used as a free parking lot for nearby residents but last summer CNA activists removed the blackberries and convinced the city to allow the installation of a viewing platform and some seats – for which donations are now being sought.

Finally (at least for this list), the CNA is developing plans to plant special shade trees along the old Island Highway part of Campbellton, which have initially met some resistance but are still in the works.

Meanwhile, the city’s plans to alter bus routes will have some effects on Campbellton, notably the addition of a transit hub (or bus waiting and transfer point) on 15th Avenue between the north and southbound highway lanes, and across the street from a McDonald’s outlet inside an Esso gas station (i.e. with access to public washrooms).

Looking ahead a few years, the CNA would like to have input into the redevelopment of several vacant parcels of land on the old Island Highway again between the north and southbound lanes near the River Sportsman store and across the street from the Chevron gas station. Some of the land is owned by the City and some by the Province via the Ministry of Transportation, the new Minister of which happens to be North Island MLA Claire Trevena.

“It’s obvious that the Campbellton Neighbourhood Association has been generating a lot of progress for the community but there’s still lots to do and we need more active members and volunteers and we need many more donations of goods and services and cash to help push these projects forward,” said Shaw, such as landscaping and property development companies to come forward and do the Spruce Street mini-park project.

The CNA generates most of its income from doing the beverage service at the annual Salmon Festival and logger sports event plus it sells memberships, generates income from Campbellton Days activities such as a barbecue and silent auction and it receives project-specific funding for items such as the banners and beautification.

“While fund-raising is an important task for most organizations, including the CNA, we also can make progress simply by bringing people together and discussing things openly,” said Shaw, inviting everyone interested to visit CNA activities during Campbellton Days.

For further information contact CNA chair Brian Shaw at 250-287-8807 or bshaw@mackieresearch.com or CNA vice-chair John Twigg at 778-348-0747 or john@johntwigg.com .

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