Jock Hildebrand’s heron statue watches over Lakeside Park. Photo: Greg Utzig

Jock Hildebrand’s heron statue watches over Lakeside Park. Photo: Greg Utzig

ABOUT NELSON: Finding a home for the golden heron

Donna Macdonald writes about the various efforts to develop the city’s shore

by Donna Macdonald

The sun gently warms me as I begin walking from the Prestige Resort to Lakeside Park. Strolling along the pathway between the Prestige and its marina, I recall the owners’ resistance to having the route. Today it’s part of a lively social space, as people enjoy meals, rent a canoe or relax on their chaise lounges.

Controversy also arose about filling in a bit of the lake for the Prestige to build on. It’s ironic because 100 years ago most of the area below the CPR tracks was filled in to create flat land and transportation access for industries like Walton Boatworks and Kootenay Engineering Works.

I doubt there was much controversy back then. But as Nelson continues to transition its lakeshore lands away from industrial uses, people are a lot pickier about what happens next.

Leaving the Prestige, I pass the former BC Building Corporation-owned lands. The first part of this prime waterfront is still occupied by dump trucks and graders (for now). Back in early 2001, rumours circulated that the mall owners would buy the second part of the land, adjacent to the mall, in order to build a stand-alone Walmart superstore. On our waterfront! That got many people fired up: letters, delegations and protests made it a very hot summer for City Council.

Happily, a group of local visionaries raised money to buy the land, knowing there was a higher and better use for it. Several attempts to build multi-residential projects followed and failed. Twenty years later, the current owner Culos Development is poised to begin.

In 1980 the Chahko Mika Mall opened, with its parking lot on the lakeshore, apparently to facilitate snow removal right into the lake! As well, then-councillor John Neville, who lost his sight as a child, argued that people would park in the lot just to enjoy the lake view. I was skeptical about that, but now I notice vehicles parking in the shade of the trees along the path. It’s where the non-shoppers in the family wait, and enjoy the view.

Beyond the mall is Duck Bay Wetland, alive with birds, butterflies, fish, ducks and wild roses blooming. I catch a glimpse of Red Raider hunting in the bulrushes, the first of several sculptures along the path.

The green expanse of the playing field is dazzling. As I described in my last column, the city dumped a lot of fill along the shore to create it (under DFO’s stringent supervision). Trees have been planted around the field, most in memory of someone. I recall the opposition from field users who thought the trees would get in their way. Instead players now enjoy green oases on hot days.

The field is bounded on the lakeside by numerous points that were adopted by service clubs (Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis and Gyro) and businesses (Nelson and District Credit Union). I’m particularly fond of the Italian-Canadian Society’s piazza (perfect for Tai Chi) and of the Hume Hotel’s point where Heron’s Landing soars into the sky.

That substantial sculpture came to us largely thanks to two men. First, Jock Hildebrand, the Kelowna artist who’d created it for a condo development. When they rejected it, he told CBC Radio he was seeking a new home for the heron. The second man, Nelson’s Marty Horswill, heard that offer and contacted Jock and city officials. Now this stylized, bronze and stainless steel heron is a gleaming beacon on our waterfront.

Feeling overcome by the strange feeling of sunshine on my face, I take a seat on one of the many benches. I am, as always, so grateful to be in this peaceful, lush and beautiful place.

Donna Macdonald has lived in Nelson since 1972, and is the author of Surviving City Hall, a memoir of her 19 years on Nelson City Council. Her column will appear monthly.

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