This conceptual drawing shows possible future plans for Frank James Park in Willow Point. The plan involves a central festival lawn for the carving competition as well as a plaza to the southeast corner.

Council endorses major changes for Campbell River’s Frank James Park

Improvements could include a festival lawn, celebration plaza, new washrooms and extra parking

City council has endorsed a long-term plan for Willow Point’s Frank James Park that may include a festival lawn, a plaza, new park entry, a picnic lawn, beach seating and a Sybil Andrews art walk.

The plan, intended to be built in phases over several years, is worth $1.3 million and was presented to city council at its Tuesday meeting.

David Reid of LANARC Consulting, hired to develop a master plan for Frank James Park, told council that in consulting with the community it was clear that the park is “an important symbol.” The park is arguably best known for hosting the Transformations on the Shore carving contest, an event that Reid said Campbell Riverites want to see continue at Frank James.

“One of the questions we asked the public, we were checking, is it the right place for Transformations on the Shore?” Reid told council.

“The answer was ‘absolutely yes, it should remain here.’”

But participants at a May 10 drop-in public open house at Willow Point Hall and respondents to a questionnaire all agreed they would like to see the event have its own special area in the park. To that end, one of the key changes to the park involves the creation of a festival lawn with a view to the sea and built up similar to a grass playing field, in order to address sea level rise. A Celebration Space near the park’s existing parking lot would include a waterfront gazebo and gardens and cater to small weddings and the Day of Mourning ceremony. But the number one priority, as indicated by the public, is new washrooms. Reid said the master plan calls for enhanced washrooms, with flushable toilets and running water, that are “artful” and add to the park. It also includes a Sybil Andrews Walk – a crushed stone pathway with a seating and interpretive area to tell the story and display the works of Sybil Andrews and Walter Morgan as the trail passes the cottage and the Walter Morgan Studio.

The master plan also incorporates the nearby Sea Walk and calls for a slight change, with the Sea Walk going out towards the highway at the Sybil Andrews Cottage, remaining where it is in the central portion of the park and then starting to pull away from the shoreline at the north end of the park. In the middle portion of the park, a new crosswalk is proposed, where a new pathway to the park would also lead down to the beach.

Coun. Larry Samson said he was happy with the plan but he questioned the parking situation. Additional parallel parking stalls are planned for alongside the park on Highway 19A as well as 17 new stalls in behind the Willow Point Lions Hall – a plan that the city is currently still discussing with the Willow Point Lions.

“I think it’s a great plan,” Samson said, but “one of my biggest concerns on it is the parking and the parking behind Willow Point Hall and access to the back of the building. The view lines when you’re coming out of that building is such that you have the Sybil Andrews and bush on the right hand side and you have the Willow Point Hall on the left hand side. The view sites of the driver are going to be such that they’re going to be up on the sidewalk to ensure it’s safe to enter onto the highway and it puts into jeopardy the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.”

Reid said that was a fair point and he encouraged council to have city staff take a look.

“We do recognize it as a tight spot so I’m not surprised by your comment,” Reid said, adding the driveway access could use a second look. “I would encourage a review by transportation, it’s very much in order.”

Mayor Andy Adams had the same view as Samson, plus some additional concerns

“I think it looks great,” Adams said, but the “concern I have about the celebration space (is) the loitering and undesirable activities there that are unfortunately going to happen whether it’s a gazebo, a parking lot, or nothing.”

Adams said the only deterrent he could see would be to “light it up like Monday Night Football but I’m not sure what the neighbours would think about that.”

Like Samson, Adams said he was also concerned about parking.

“I would like to see an increase from 17 parking spaces, one plan had 28 I believe,” Adams said. “I wonder if there’s a way to expand on that and take into consideration what Coun. Samson said about access, getting in and out?”

Reid said he agreed with Adams’ comment about lighting in some form on the gazebo, without making it too “garish” and as for parking, he said his firm believes the back of the Willow Point Hall is the right option, though some adjustments could be made.

“We think the parking lot is in the right space, it could be a bit larger and the gazebo a bit smaller, it’s just that balance,” Reid said.

In the end, council adopted the master plan as a guiding document. The project, when it goes ahead, is expected to be funded over several years and would come up each year during financial planning for council to debate.