Vancouver Island Parks: Colliery Dam Park (Nanaimo)
|Beautiful Colliery Dam on a Spring Day|
Colliery Dam Park is a popular location for fishing, swimming and walking/hiking in the South end of Nanaimo. These dams have a rare link to Nanaimo's coal mining history. Built in 1910-11 by the Western Fuel Company to supply water for coal washing and for use by miner's, mules and horses in the mines. It soon had a secondary purpose, homes near the pipeline were allowed to tap into it for domestic purposes and this water was carried to most of the homes in South Harewood. Although no longer fulfilling these domestic purposes, the park has become well-loved as a fresh water swimming area, an off-leash park (the upper portion of the loop and only between 6am-10am and after 4pm) and slightly over 2.5 kms of trails loops through dense wooded sections of the 28 hectare park.
On May 14th the City of Nanaimo had a news release announcing the immediate removal of the lower and middle dams. The plan is as follows:
Early June - staff will release the tender for the removal of both dams
July - dam removal is planned to begin in accordance with summer low water flow rates and Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish protection requirements
Summer 2013 through Spring 2014 - commence the design and approval process to build replacement dams
Summer 2014 - construction begins on new dams
During this time trails and pathways may be closed and inaccessible. Be sure to read the signs and exercise caution if you are venturing into this area.
The Colliery Dam Preservation Society is a group dedicated to both the preservation of the Colliery Dam Park and safety concerns regarding the dams. They have been very proactive in rallying the community of Harewood to the pros of keeping Colliery Dam Lakes intact.
My thoughts? I spent many summers swimming in Colliery Dam. I walk Colliery Dam Park daily, I live close to Sixth St (below the dam) and I love the community feel the park has. If the BC Dam Safety Branch requires the City of Nanaimo to remove the dams due to safety issues, it is what it is. These are 100 year old structures and since I am not a structual engineer I am in no place to say whether these dams could just be repaired/fixed up to standard instead of a complete rebuild. I do understand the feelings of many citizens that believe City Council has not been forthright with information, having watched all the Council meetings it would seem as though many of the "costs" of rebuilding/fixing were simply guesstimated. It will be interesting to see how much rebuilding the dams will cost and whether the citizens of Nanaimo are prepared to spend money on it. Renaturalization could be a messy process, but in the end it will always be parkland. I will be following this story closely over the next year....
Dam Safety Branch is NOT saying the dams have to come out this year. That is a bit of misinformation being promoted by city staff.
Following Mr. Gales option, the park would remain as is this year, in 2014 the middle dam would be rebuilt, in 2015 the lower dam would be done, for a total cost of $8.6 million.
Why the city seems hell-bent on not listening is one of life's little mysteries.
If the dams are drained now with no timeline to rebuild, we will have two large, very smelly stink holes, which you will no doubt be able to smell from the privacy of your backyard on 6th st. The previously beautiful swimming and fishing holes will be fenced off and the dams removed making the entire park completly unusable.
I know that the motion passed involved a re-build of both dams, but with dire consequences for the habitat in and around the lakes I can not support the immediate drainage, what happens to the spring run off and heavy rainfall next year when there is no dams in place? City council haven't thought it through and could be placing residents in greater danger by removing the dams than if they were to keep them. Maybe you would like to join us for our occupy colliery camp outs, we are only trying to preserve the history of Harewood to make it a better place for our children.