The fence around this vacant lot at the corner of Baker and Falls Street will soon be covered with a 200-foot banner.

Covering up a terrible scar in Nelson

The west end of Baker Street is finally going to get a much needed addition to help remove a prominent scar.

The west end of Baker Street is finally going to get a much needed addition to help remove a prominent scar.

In the next couple of weeks a commissioned piece of art will cover the fence in the 200 block of Baker that cordons off a former Esso gas station. It’s about time.

About seven years ago, leaky underground gas tanks caused Imperial Oil to pull up stakes. The Esso station was destroyed, the tanks removed and an ugly chain-link fence erected to ensure people didn’t wander through the weed infested wasteland.

The vacant lot is classified as a brownfield and they dot the landscape across Canada. From abandoned gas stations to old industrial sites, the BC government estimates there are between 4,000 and 6,000 of them in the province.

In Nelson we have four abandoned gas stations, all of which significantly take away from the natural and human made beauty of this community. It’s hard to say exactly why they remain undeveloped — the issues can be many and oil companies are not keen on calling media back on these matters — but in all cases there seems to be no hurry by the property owners to take action on meaningful redevelopment.

The most disturbing aspect about these brownfields is that three of the four are very prominent locations in our community. The first impression these scars leave on visitors can impact their length of stay in the community and whether they return.

Though many people have lobbied Imperial Oil and the City of Nelson over the years to do something about the ugly lot, it took the Cultural Development Commission to get it done. In partnership with Imperial Oil, the neighbouring property, Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism; and the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership there is finally some action. Kudos to cultural development officer Joy Barrett for helping take action on the blight.

We only hope more partnerships can be forged to help ensure the other three lots get the same cover-up and beautification.