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Editorial: Diversifying

Waterfront development has long been a goal of community leaders and many residents.

Waterfront development has long been a goal of community leaders and many residents. With funding from the federal and provincial governments as well as Island Coastal Economic Trust, City of Powell River officials have been able to start work on three projects, with more to come.

The goal of the projects is to help diversify the local economy by building a marine area that will attract recreational boaters and rebuild the retail service and commercial marine industry needed to support transient boaters’ expectations and requirements. Powell River has the right location and all the natural elements needed to become a waterfront destination.

The south harbour facility has not been expanded since it was built in 1948. It can accommodate about 100 boats and it is at capacity. The project will expand the facility by over 50 per cent and the breakwater realignment will provide access for larger boats.

The Wharf at Westview is intrinsically linked to the revitalization of the south harbour. The infill area has been an incomplete construction zone for nearly 10 years. The city acquired the water lot lease and the Westview wharf in 2000. In cooperation with the federal and provincial governments, it created more land around the wharf, but the area has remained undeveloped, until now.

The goal of the Wharf at Westview project is to transform the waterfront back into a community gathering place. Plans include providing landscaped and lighted seating areas with space for specialty stores, kiosks and entertainment. Boardwalks will link into the transient boating wharf at the south harbour and the seawalk.

A convergence point for ferries to Vancouver and Texada islands, the area is a natural meeting place for residents and travellers. Eventually boardwalks will extend to the northern waterfront with links to the commercial area along Marine Avenue.

The north harbour reconfiguration project adds to the overall development of the waterfront. Although it’s a facility for residents, increased moorage space and improved facilities will attract more people to the waterfront, adding to the demand for services.

Travelling boaters come to marinas to replenish fuel and supplies, stretch their legs, enjoy a meal and a hot shower, peruse local shops, seek refuge from stormy weather and repair their boats. Once the south harbour, north harbour and Wharf at Westview projects are completed, the next step will be to rebuild the service industry required to support increased visitors to an active waterfront community.

Long-range plans include development of marine commercial facilities. Increased boating traffic will require improved waterfront services, such as showers, essential supplies, marine services, fishing licences and souvenir shopping, all of which are opportunities for local businesses to move back to the waterfront area and redevelop the original heart of the community.

Waterfront development is a catalyst for building a diverse and sustainable coastal economy. It will leverage investments in the region by increasing residential use and business opportunities.

Many people have worked over the years in realizing the goal of an improved waterfront. Much of the dream will become reality in 2011 and as the projects unfold, it’s important to keep the larger picture in mind.