The clocktower at the Port McNeill waterfront. (Bill McQuarrie photo)

The clocktower at the Port McNeill waterfront. (Bill McQuarrie photo)

McQUARRIE: Let’s press pause on the Port McNeill Harbour Park Playground

The Port McNeill waterfront park is a town jewel.

As I wrote the March 23 news story on the proposed Waterfront Community Playgroup project, I was bothered by something that at first I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Let me start by saying the Playgroup project is run by a dedicated, enthusiastic and well-intentioned group of volunteers. While focused on young families with children and related activities, they clearly state they want to create a park that is, “…a fun, safe and accessible space for all of our community members.”

Leading with this goal, detailing the need (including an excerpt from a United Nations report on the value of play to a child) and explaining the past issues and problems, the committee members asked for the Town’s support.

In particular, they asked to use the existing waterfront park as their development site; presented a very rough outline of a project budget; provided no drawings or site plan that would allow everyone to see the scope and size of the project; and wanted Council to donate the land, install the hard assets and promise to provide ongoing maintenance.

Phase one of their proposal and representing about two thirds of their budget is a playground for children aged two through 12. Once completed, phase two would begin and include the purchase and installation of adult fitness equipment. According to their proposal, the cost (not including land, maintenance, insurance etc.) for both phases would be approximately $75,000 with $60,000 of that in cash and the balance in in-kind donations.

All of this would, according to the proposal, be completed this summer, on one of the most valuable recreational land resources the town owns. It would also be done without benefit of study and without hearing from other special interest groups who may feel their ideas and concepts represent a far better use of the park.

The playgroup committee has also offered to write the funding proposal(s) on behalf the town and given the speed with which the committee wants to proceed, that proposal would likely lack objective third party impartiality or meaningful input from other community members, governing bodies or special interest groups.

The Port McNeill waterfront park is a town jewel that should evolve based on an inclusive and well thought out master plan. It should never be a single use venture where special interest groups drive the agenda and project towards their goals.

It is instead the town that needs to be in the driver’s seat, listening to ideas, encouraging delegations to come forward, formulating inclusive plans, doing their planning and costing homework, writing funding proposals and if necessary, taking as much time as needed to ensure the Harbour Park reaches its full potential.

Is a playground centric harbour front park a bad idea? I don’t know the answer to that question but I do feel a lot more information is required before good decisions can be made.

The land this group wants to use is a treasure and personally, I’d like to see town council sit up, take notice, take control, and seek the ideas and advice of all users and potential users of the park. I see the inherent benefits of a playground being included in the development of a town master plan but perhaps not on the scale envisaged by the Playgroup proposal.

The Waterfront Community Playgroup proposal is good in that it is getting people involved and talking about best use of town assets. And it is good that those involved in this group sincerely want to improve recreational opportunities, especially for children.

However, needs and wants are dynamic, children grow up, parents age and people move in and out of town. And it is this demographic ebb and flow that makes urban planning such a difficult task and why professional and experienced planners instead of lobby groups are needed to ensure our decision makers get the best impartial and dispassionate planning advice available.

Bill McQuarrie is a former publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur. Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at

Have a story tip? Email:
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations in Gold River area

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

Mya Servatius and Marilyn May handing out gift baskets to seniors. (Michelle Tremblay photo)
NISS students practice kindness by giving gifts to seniors

This project wasn’t part of a class at NISS, or for any extra credit.

Port Hardy Fire Rescue map of controlled burning.
Controlled burn happening this weekend on Highland Drive

No unauthorized persons, including media, will be permitted within the “Hot Zone”.

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Most Read