After years of negotiations with BC Rail, the City has announced the acquisition of the RC Cotton site at the head of Williams Lake for a recreation trail and lakefront access.
“This is so exciting for our city,” said Coun. Scott Nelson of the City owning the 10-acre parcel of prime waterfront. “This access is critical. It’s going to be the gateway to the lake. We’re finally putting the ‘lake’ back in Williams Lake.”
The deal is a huge feather in the cap of councillors, so to speak, as the lands will provide a second link to Scout Island, a much needed boat launch as well as a vital connection to the River Valley recreation trail system, joining the Stampede Grounds, Scout Island and the first and second beaches on the lake, which are currently very difficult to access, via a 1.3-kilometre route.
“It’s been a long time coming. All of council has been working very hard and have been very focused on this deal. We really want to open up the lake for the whole community,” Nelson said. “We were very aggressive to get a hold of the lands — we were relentless.”
Nelson confirmed Wednesday the City managed to get the deal done for about $75,000.
The RC Cottons lands, however, cannot be disturbed for building due to historic industrial use and concerns with contamination.
The goal instead is to create a lakeside trail alongside the shoreline, providing viewing over the marsh and conserving the natural lake edge, and fencing to separate walkers from the nearby railway tracks which run along the lake.
Nelson said residents can expect gravel on the ground in 2018 and a spectacular cantilever boardwalk and night lights stretching to the first and second beaches, which are already owned by the City, in the months and years to come.
“We want to do this up big. It’s very exciting.”
If Nelson has his way, he would also like to see a restaurant at the second beach.
Nelson is running for reelection, and campaigned and won during the last election when he vowed to save the existing boat launch along South Lakeside Drive.
That boat launch has seen expansion and upgrades and Nelson said plans are in the works for a new, 200-foot boat launch at the RC Cotton site.
The City said design of the trail, parking area and amenities will be completed over the coming year.
The City is working with Nature Trust of BC and the Williams Lake Field Naturalists to explore opportunities for a pedestrian bridge connection to Scout Island that would incorporate the Nature Centre into the City’s River Valley network.
The announcement was made during the regular Tuesday evening city council Sept. 18.