Port McNeill councillor Derek Koel has ideas for Hoy Bay.
According to a 2018 column written for the North Island Gazette by Koel, Hoy Bay is 9.163 acres of waterfront land that the Town of Port McNeill purchased from Western Forest Products in 2002 for $200,000.
Since being identified in the town’s 1997 Official Community Plan as a park, it has sat completely untouched.
“I just want to see us do something with it, the town bought it ages ago and I feel it’s a very important piece of land that we are not utilizing in any way shape or form,” said Koel when asked to comment.
He tried to have a motion passed at the Dec. 8 meeting of council to have staff consult with local First Nations about the land, but his motion was defeated by mayor Gaby Wickstrom and councillors Shelley Downey, Ryan Mitchell and Ann-Marie Baron, who wanted to learn more about the history of the area from local First Nations.
Downey then made a motion to have a general engagement with First Nation partners, which was passed unanimously. Chief Administrative Officer Pete Nelson-Smith said this would be more like a “meet and greet and get to know each other” type of consultation.
As for what Koel would like to see happen with Hoy Bay, he confirmed the first step would be to “consult with First Nations on the history of the land, and once that starts to occur we can decide on what to do with the property.”
He added they would also need to survey it and check for things like wildlife and streams before any decisions are made, pointing out there are slope concerns nearby on Beach Drive.
“I wrote about it [Hoy Bay] ages ago before the election, and I want to bring awareness that it’s a beautiful piece of land — I hear opinions around town on what we should do with it, but we still haven’t done anything with it,” he said. “We’ve now had a couple years of the new council, we’ve been busy and tackled lots of issues, but I feel like we could have been more ahead on this one and I would’ve preferred we’d started talking with First Nations a lot sooner and done a little more homework.”
Koel is not afraid to think big and outside of the box. The outspoken councillor said he would be interested in “a commercial development down there, and if I had my way it would be full of bike jumps and be a cool nature park,” he laughed, noting that all kinds of different ideas should be on the table as an option. “Maybe there’s waterfront camping down there, maybe we sell it for housing and take that money and spend it on a new community hall, maybe we want to partner with First Nations and have a resort there. All these ideas need to be on the table, and as a councillor it’s not my job to steer it one way or the other, it’s to present ideas and figure out what people want to see happen with the land and take it from there.”
He added he has lots of other ideas, proudly stating he will be heading up the town’s new parks and recreation portfolio that was created by Wickstrom. “I’m pretty excited — my intention is to one day have a [parks and rec] committee, but it hasn’t been discussed at the council level yet. I’ve always felt we could be doing a lot better in that department, not even neccessarily more parks, but just improvements.”