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Gibsons Beach ownership discussed at Tla'amin Nation, qathet Regional District, City of Powell River meeting

First Nation indicates interest in revitalizing proposal from 2013/2014
EXPRESSES INTEREST: Gibsons Beach [above] is of interest to Tla’amin Nation. The nation inquired about the possibility of revisiting a former City of Powell River initiative to offer the beach as an act of reconciliation.

Tla’amin Nation has expressed interest in Gibsons Beach.

At the community-to-community-to-community (C3) meeting held May 12, elected officials and staff from Tla’amin, City of Powell River and qathet Regional District reviewed a request by Tla’amin regarding ownership of Gibsons Beach.

Tla’amin executive councillor Erik Blaney said the nation was trying to revive some of the conversations it had with the city back in 2013/2014.

“There were conversations at one point in time about the city gifting Gibsons Beach to the Tla’amin Nation at some point as an act of reconciliation,” said Blaney. “It was a pretty interesting idea but I think looking operationally, it was a bit much for the nation to take on at that time.

“Now that we are better established and we have a really good capital infrastructure and lands management team, that opportunity now looks a lot more feasible for us and I just wanted to see if that opportunity was still available, and if the current city council was interested in going down that road. We have reserve land on the one side and on the other side we have some economic development lands with the Agricultural Land Reserve.”

Blaney said he wanted to put the matter on the table and the city’s radar.

“I know we did have conversations about that back in the day and it was kind of like yes, thanks, we don’t have the resources to do this,” said Blaney. “The nation does now have the resources available and we’d be able to really make that park more cultural.”

He said Tla’amin could fix the boat ramp and create some new opportunities for the nation as well.

“We’ve been using that beach for thousands of years,” said Blaney.

Mayor recalls offer

Powell River mayor Dave Formosa said he was quite proud when the city was able to offer Tla’amin the Gibsons Beach parcel.

“I still remember Norm Gallagher telling me many times how that block of land was promised to them and stolen away at the last minute,” said Formosa. “Yes, we did offer this and at the time it was not thought that Tla’amin could take it on.

“Personally, I have no issue with it. I just want to know that our citizens would be able to continue to use that boat ramp without charge, and that it would be part of our regional infrastructure for people to access the beautiful amenities that our waterfront community offers.”

Formosa said he didn’t want to get beaten up in town about giving away another asset because not everyone understands reconciliation. He said he could only speak for himself but he would be supportive.

City chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said there were discussions about doing as Blaney had indicated and there was support at the time by city council. He said it’s something that would have to be brought back to city council for further discussion.

City councillor George Doubt said a lot of people in Wildwood use the Gibsons Beach park and boat launch. He said there has been a lot of desire to see the boat launch upgraded.

“It’s a park of interest, particularly to people in Wildwood, and if we are going to make changes to that, the fact that somebody has the capital to do improvements and maybe make it better than it is now would go a long way,” said Doubt. “I would generally be supportive but it all depends on how it is portrayed, and the access and improvements to the park over time.”

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said she recalls the discussion about Gibsons Beach from years ago.

“It’s pretty much strictly a decision for city council, so maybe we could just ask to put it on a committee of the whole meeting agenda for further discussion,” said Hathaway. “I appreciate the input.”

Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said it’s a great idea and if council could have a proposal, a brief outline of what is being proposed, then councillors could have a wholesome discussion at committee of the whole.

Formosa said that city council would wait for the proposal before putting it on agenda.