The planter boxes tended by Sharon Arbour (left) and Carol Couture in Campbellton last summer were a popular addition. Mirror file photo by Alistair Taylor

Campbellton group eyes new projects for Campbell River neighbourhood

With its various projects well in hand the Campbellton Neighbourhood Association is preparing a public visioning process to help it set new priorities for coming years.

At its recent annual general meeting the association’s four table officers were all re-elected, some new people were added to the board and a consensus emerged that the group should continue with its focus on community development projects in the year ahead – starting with a public meeting and other initiatives to seek suggestions for new priorities from the business operators and residents in the area.

“We want to bring more people here and take their eyes off of some eyesores,” CNA chair Brian Shaw told about 30 people attending the meeting in the Eagles Hall in January, suggesting one idea he really likes is to install several “Steampunk” art statues at various locations around the historic neighbourhood.

Shaw noted that when the CNA began in 2011 it was mainly in response to some problematic issues, mainly that the oldest part of Campbell River was being somewhat ignored while other parts of the city were being improved.

He said that in 2012 the CNA’s activities were driven mainly by complaints, such as regarding the location of a sani-dump, the inadequacy of street lighting and crosswalks and the prevalence of graffiti and other social problems, but after some lobbying of city officials all of those problems were soon addressed, including the subsequent installation of traffic lights at Petersen Road and 16th Avenue.

In 2013, a major turnaround really began when students from Vancouver Island University’s planning school under the direction of Dr. Pam Shaw were brought in to help community activists identify other priorities to work on, such as restoring public access to the shore of the Campbell River, considering routes for biking and walking paths and generally improving the look and feel of the city’s oldest neighbourhood, which had become a somewhat dysfunctional mix of old and small houses, a wide range of businesses and shops serving mainly the resource industries and of course the historic but troubled Quinsam Hotel, which burned down in 2017 and now has been completely removed.

River access restored

One of the first major priorities to emerge from that process was to restore public access to the river, which began with a major study by professionals of what could be done in that regard at the end of Maple Street and recommendations for a new small park connected to a restored hiking trail along the river.

That concept had to be put on hold awaiting negotiations between the city, which owns the shoreline land, and the Campbell River Indian Band (Wei Wai Kum), on how to develop their adjacent vacant lands, but since then, a similar parklet is now proceeding at the end of Spruce Street aided by a $15,000 grant from FortisBC – which liked the CNA’s “Rescue the River” pitch and coincidentally recently had upgraded its natural gas distribution facility also on Spruce Street only a few blocks away. That donation also qualified the CNA to receive $15,000 in matching funds from the City of Campbell River, whose staff are now doing the physical improvements to the site following an environmental impact study by Campbellton-based Mainstream Biological Consulting.

“The CNA is hoping to get similar river-access projects done soon at nearby locations,” said Shaw, noting there are excellent spots for such access – including benches and viewing platforms – between the two bridges over the Campbell River, as well as elsewhere up the river.

Meanwhile the CNA also has qualified for matching funds for some other beautification projects, notably the erection of several dozen artistic banners on power and light poles along the old and new highways in 2016 and 2017, and last year for the rejuvenation and planting of several dozen planter boxes that were positioned around the area many years ago by the now-defunct Campbellton Business Association.

Entrance feature coming soon

But probably the biggest success yet from and for the Campbellton group is the soon-coming construction of an “entrance feature” on 14th Avenue between the north and southbound lanes of the new inland Island Highway that is intended to be a tourist attraction promoting businesses throughout the city.

It will feature an authentic Beaver floatplane rebuilt by Sealand Aviation at its local airport hangar and entirely at Sealand’s expense, and is meant to reflect that the Campbell River estuary once was home to the largest base of float planes in the world as logging companies and various other resources and tourism businesses flew from there to their worksites all over B.C.’s lengthy coastline.

“I’m thrilled to report that Sealand’s Bill Alder recently told me the plane is now complete and can be mounted on a pedestal as soon as it’s in place,” Shaw told the AGM, adding that the pedestal is being designed by the Campbell River office of McElhanney Engineering Services Ltd.

Shaw explained that the exact location of the pedestal probably will be on the southwest side of the small parcel of land to avoid potential conflicts with several city services such as water that have conduits underground there but he assured everyone at the AGM that the site still will include some benches, parking spaces and information displays regarding the city’s tourist attractions and services.

Visioning process eyed

“We’ve made a lot of progress in the last five years and now we need to develop visioning for Campbellton in the next 10 years,” said Shaw, a local investment advisor who has been co-chair or chair of the CNA from its outset.

He said the exact process is yet to be determined for initiating a new phase of public discussions on what else should be done to improve Campbellton but he said anyone and everyone interested in participating will be welcome to do so, whether in public meetings or privately.

Shaw said he’d like to see some attractive trees installed at suitable locations, a riverside boardwalk added, and a major development constructed at the site of the former Quinnie which is a key entrance corner to Campbellton, but meanwhile it’s a good sign that most property values in the area have been rising. Others at the meeting suggested adding more parking spaces, bike racks and maybe an outdoor chess board.

CNA vice-chair John Twigg reported on the modest successes of the CNA’s second annual Campbellton Days promotion on the B.C. Day long weekend and raised questions about whether it should be done again this year, possibly as a mainly music event on B.C. Day in the Campbellton Community Garden (another CNA success), possibly in conjunction with the B.C. Salmon Festival and Logger Sports event on the following weekend which this year will include a new Highland Games and bagpiping event being organized by Shaw under the name Bagpipes and Buzzsaws, and possibly both of those weekends together, or nothing. Those options will be reviewed by the CNA board.

Twigg also mentioned plans are beginning to hold small-scale markets of produce in the community garden for food grown in the garden or in backyard gardens and orchards around the neighbourhood and from other regional sources – which he said would fit well with the City’s official community plan to improve its now-low self-sufficiency in food, and possibly in synergy with the Campbell River Food Bank and/or the Museum’s Haig-Brown House attraction, both of which happen to be located in Campbellton.

He concluded by noting that while the CNA members and other community activists are envisioning new amenities they also should spend some time considering revisions to the governance and business model of the CNA itself, such as maybe by investing in a store-front office to raise its visibility and accessibility, and revising its membership structure by adding new lower-priced categories for residents and small business operators. Those and other topics were referred to the board for future consideration.

New directors added

Coun. Ron Kerr congratulated the CNA for its many accomplishments, said it has a great future and then conducted an election process that saw re-elections by acclamation of Shaw and Twigg plus Treasurer Ann Hazlett and Secretary Laura Twigg.

Directors include returnees Carole Couture, Penny Roberts and Morgan Ostler with newcomers Dustin Schook, Laurel Cronk and Eric Wright.

Earlier in the meeting RCMP detachment commander Jeff Preston gave a detailed report on road safety and crime reduction efforts in Campbellton, noting the city in general has been doing well compared with other communities on the island and in Campbellton the closure of the Quinnie had caused a few problem residents to move elsewhere.

Shaw closed the meeting with special thanks to Sharon Arbour and Carole Couture for their many hours of hard work on the planters and urging everyone to adopt a cause and then champion it.

“We’re all trying to make Campbellton a place where everybody wants to be,” he said, noting the strong attendance at the AGM is a good sign of more progress to come.

For further information contact Brian Shaw at 250-287-8807 or bshaw@mackieresearch.com .