Bike park a wheel possibility

PORT McNEILL—The dream of a local volunteer group to secure land for a bicycle park on town property took a leap forward

PORT McNEILL—The dream of a local volunteer group to secure land for a bicycle park on town property took a leap forward when council agreed in principal to a five-year, land-use agreement for a parcel of undeveloped property along Pioneer Hill Drive.

In a break from protocol, council voted at its Jan. 16 meeting to approve drafting a land-use contract with the North Island Trail Riders Organization (NITRO) following a presentation by NITRO founder Derek Koel.

“Normally in petitions and delegations we don’t make a decision,” Coun. Gaby Wickstrom said.

“I would be willing to make motion to support NITRO if we can make up a 5-year land-use agreement and a five-year renewal option.”

Koel, whose group already has a non-binding agreement to construct a skate park on the property until such time as the town finds a buyer for the land, argued it was proving difficult to get equipment and funding for the site without the assurance of a land-use contract.

“We’re finding it’s an obstacle to getting heavy equipment out, or for our volunteers spending their time and money, with the knowledge that the town could, for whatever reason, end the agreement,” Koel said.

“If we ask for grant money without a firm arrangement for land, it’s a non-starter.”

The town-owned property has remained vacant despite For Sale signage, and Mayor Gerry Furney has said the town has no imminent offers or plans to develop the land.

“We’ll need to have a proper agreement, especially because of that particular area,” Furney said.

“We have no plans for that land at this time, and (a bike park is) a perfectly logical utilization use of that land,” he said.

“But in the unlikely event of a major surge in population, where there is a need for additional service lots, that would be the simplest and most logical place for us to develop residential accommodations.”

Council and Koel agreed any land-use agreement would need to include a clause compensating NITRO, either with another suitable property or repayment for labour and materials, should the property be developed before the agreement expires.

Furney also raised insurance as a potential concern.

Koel replied NITRO, as a registered non-profit organization, has access to insurance for its board members and for specific events.

But, he added, the current unsecured agreement between Port McNeill and NITRO is covered under the town’s insurance.

And municipalities throughout Vancouver Island, British Columbia and beyond have similar bike parks and skateboard parks which are covered under municipal insurance.

Town administrator and treasurer Albert Sweet said he checked with the town’s insurer when the bike park was first approved, and such parks contribute an “almost insignificant” share of claims. “It’s the least of their concerns,” Sweet said.

When drafted, the completed agreement will return to council for approval. Koel said NITRO would then need to approve the contract before it goes into effect.