Campbellton: a river runs by it

The most popular access point to the river is at the foot of Maple Street where the Myrt Thompson Trail begins

Man, I tell you, I love a grand vision.

And Brian Shaw and the rest of the Campbellton Neighbourhood Association have a grand vision for the Campbell River as it runs past Campbellton.

I spent a few minutes at the Campbell River Wednesday afternoon setting up a photo to go with Kristen Douglas’ story on the Rescue The River campaign the CNA has launched.

While we were down there, Shaw outlined their vision for turning the river into a tourist and resident asset by installing viewing platforms and access points to the river.

Just like Campbell River’s oceanfront is one of the community’s greatest recreation amenities and tourist draws – via the Seawalk and the spectacular ocean views – so, too can the river become a popular draw. If you can get at it.

Right now the most popular access point to the river is at the foot of Maple Street where the Myrt Thompson Trail begins. Besides accessing the trail along the river and into the estuary behind the Tyee Spit, the street at the trailhead ends right at the river’s edge.

And that is a popular place for snorkellers to exit the river. Except it’s a tough spot to get out. The rip rap (oh, the inevitable, ubiquitous rip rap in this town) and the blackberry brambles have to be tough to scramble over to get out of the water. The CNA proposes a water-level platform to allow paddlers and swimmers to get out of the water.

In the same spot, the CNA also proposes a higher viewing platform that would look north from the foot of Maple Street over the estuary and mouth of the river. It’s a spectacular view with plenty of bird life and wildlife (salmon, seals, mink, etc.). Stick a couple of picnic tables and you have a fantastic recreational spot.

But the CNA won’t be stopping there. They also propose an access point at an empty lot just north of the Tamarac Street bridge.

The vision for this area is no less than spectacular. The parcell of land is owned by the city and the Ministry of Highways. The CNA believes this site would work well for a Tourist Information Centre. It is large enough to accommodate a 2,000 sq. ft. building as well as a parking lot that could handle buses.

But beside the lot and an infocentre is a walled (and rip-rapped) stretch of river bank with a chain link fence (presumably to stop people from falling into the river). This section of river drops  steeply to the riverbank and so would work well as a location for  a long platform that would provide access to the river for – and this is the part I love – fishing the river. It’s like a pier for the river. As big a tourist draw as the Discovery Pier is, imagine fly fishing off a platform into the Campbell.

The theme behind all of this is to open up more access to the river, particularly in a stretch that has been extensively urbanized.

It’s due for a makeover because it’s kinda ugly. The problem is, this is the entrance to Campbell River for a lot of visitors. Shaw said googling Campbell River will land you right at the corner of Tamarac and Highway 19, near the MOH/City lot. Not the most picturesque introduction to Campbell River.

Campbellton really does need a makeover. Of course money is tight these days but there are infrstructure dollars available from senior governments. Some of the improvements, however, like the Rescue the River proposals, can be done with fewer dollars.

It would at least be a start.