Park Ave – Linear Park or Throughway

I suggest the City of Nanaimo create a linear-park near the south end of Park Avenue, where it is currently closed to traffic, instead of the City’s plan of re-opening the section to automobile through-traffic.

Currently, at the south-end of Nanaimo’s Park Avenue, the pavement disappears for a few hundred feet and concrete barriers create a dead-end for motor vehicles (although pedestrians & cyclists can pass). This stretch of dirt road passes through some of south Nanaimo’s last forested country acreages.

This dead-end makes Park Ave a less enticing through-road for vehicles cutting through Nanaimo on their way southward. The entire length of Park Ave is fairly calm, with only occasional traffic. The avenue has residential neighbourhoods, a community sports field, an elementary school, and Nanaimo’s last remaining farm. Walking and cycling along Park Ave is safer and more pleasant than other parallel roads such as Bruce Ave, Old Victoria Rd, and Nicol St (existing through-roads).

Near the end of Park Ave, between 9th & 10th (near Cordan St), where the road turns to dirt amongst trees, a few concrete barriers stop the flow of automobiles while letting pedestrians and cyclists continue through to the neighbourhoods and Parkway Trail beyond.

This interruption of Park Ave has likely helped in calming the entire street, creating a much safer space for the neighbourhoods along it, and has created an interstitial public space – a few hundred feet of dirt and forest.

A subdivision being developed currently (2023/01) has cleared a block of the forest and is building another subdivision. According to communications with the City of Nanaimo, at some time after this subdivision is complete, they will be opening Park Avenue to through-traffic. Likely resulting in an increase of vehicle traffic on the entire stretch of Park Ave, and reducing the safety and comfort of this neighbourhood street.

Additionally, this change will effectively eliminate the currently pedestrianized-space in favour of an unnecessary and entirely new throughway for automobiles.

Instead of unnecessarily opening this stretch of urban country-side to motor vehicles, this is a perfect opportunity for the City to create a linear park.

A linear park (a park that is long and skinny and traversed from one end to the other) would integrate with the adjacent neighbourhoods, woodlands, and near-by parks. Not only would this provide park space for the community but it would avoid creating the dangerous and unpleasant conditions that come with a throughway.

Maintaining this short section of Park Ave as closed to motor vehicles will retain the safety and calm nature of the avenue, as well as enhancing the livability of the neighbourhood with a new community park, and continue to provide a safe route for cyclists and pedestrians.

This is an easy opportunity to improve urban-livability, cycling/walking infrastructure, safe streets, healthy environments, and other goals that cities are eager to achieve.

One concern when closing a street (or keeping it closed) is allowing sufficient access to emergency vehicles, especially fire trucks. Park Avenue does not currently provide through access to any vehicles, including fire trucks, and existing roads already serve all the housing in the area (including the new subdivision). However, a linear-park could enable access to emergency vehicles without allowing general traffic to pass through. The linear-park’s trail would simply need to allow sufficient width and support to firetrucks in order to allow emergency access when needed.

The City of Nanaimo should not be adding roads as a default behaviour.

It should be adding parks and public spaces rather than surplus automobile infrastructure. Especially, as in this case, when there is no need for a new throughway, and the simple alternative would increase the safety of our streets and create more livable communities.Park Ave Linear Park Concept

As a simple illustration of what could be done with this space I have thrown together this illustration.

Note that the neighborhood street serving the new housing block already connects to the adjacent neighborhood’s road and does not require the connection to Park Ave (which I have suggested end as a cul-de-sac). The brown trail shown in my illustration would be a pedestrian/cyclist route with a bollard or other barrier to motor vehicles, while still being easily accessible to emergency vehicles (when necessary).