Gerry Thomasen's Blog

View of The Foothills with Realtor Gerry Thomasen

If you live in the mid-Island and haven't heard of The Lantzville Foothills, it means three things:

  1. You haven't been hiking enough
  2. You're not following local politics
  3. You're not planning your dream home overlooking a phenomenal view

The hiker should know this place as a beautiful system of arbutus groves and mossy lookouts.

If you followed local matters, you'd know that this development (which started and failed under different ownership during the Great Recession) has been a hot-button topic for Lantzville residents and local politics.

And anyone with the capital to build a luxurious home - with the desire to spend a little more on the SITE in order to secure a priceless view - would certainly have heard about The Lantzville

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I'm a metal detectorist, which means I look for metal objects of value or interest in the dirt, up to 10 inches deep.

There's this vacant lot in an historic part of South Nanaimo, where these houses were torn down sometime around 2015:

South Nanaimo derelict homes

In the winter of 2015/2016, I found some cool stuff in the vacant lot, using my metal detector. Here are some of the most interesting things I found:

1862 penny from England

This baby isn't in good shape, so it has no monetary value. But it's SO cool to try to imagine who dropped this coin, and when, and under what circumstances. By the way, the figure shows Britannia seated and holding a trident - very appropriate for the time!

1862 English penny

1900 US Indian Head penny

I love these coins, for some reason. I think

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This should appeal to just about everyone - have you heard? - as part of the hubbub surrounding the Rogers Hometown Hockey tour, there are a couple installations down at Maffeo Sutton Park right now (until this Sunday, Feb26).

There is FREE SKATING near the park's parking area. It's a small rink but big enough to be fun, especially for younger skaters or for people who love the park and want to say they've done everything possible, there. (Not many people can say they've skated at Maffeo Sutton - unless they're talking about before the Civic Arena was demolished!).

But the best part, I think, is the zipline that is installed and which is BY DONATION. (Donations go to a local children's cause.)

This is a rare opportunity. The zipline runs from

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The mid-Island region (and Nanaimo in particular) has seen considerable growth since the early 2000s. This was predictable in light of several local characteristics within the larger regional context:

  1. Changes to the labour pool
  2. Physical geography
  3. Vancouver's influence

A lot of resource extraction jobs vacated Nanaimo in the final decades of the 20th century. The blue-collar areas of the city decayed. Meanwhile "the suits" moved investment away from the old city, opening shopping malls and clearing large ridgetop lots north and west of Departure Bay. Many residents commented that things were too dispersed. By the 1990s, the city was spread thinly and had a clear north/south divide.

But all Nanaimo needed was more people to fill it out,

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Last year's real estate market activity was unprecedented in Nanaimo as it was in Vancouver. Prices increased as much as 13% (single family) in Nanaimo through the year, and average prices in January 2017 were up 30% from the previous January! The numbers of units sold (all residential types) also rose significantly from 2015 to 2016.

This boom appears to have been a result of a strong provincial economy, a weak dollar, population growth, and low inventory levels.

Record-low interest rates also fueled some of this activity. But in October the federal government effectively reduced how much buyers can borrow, so there may be some cooling of demand, or at least of pricing, in 2017.

But regional factors suggest a continued upward trend. Vancouver's

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The Nanaimo River Estuary is just south of downtown. The clean, rushing water scatters all kinds of sediments into the ocean to form a wide delta loved by gulls, eagles, oysters and log booms.

Three of us took to a canoe and a kayak, and explored this beautiful desolation on a sunny Sunday in February. Here's a satellite image of where we went:

Nanaimo River Estuary satellite

We started on Maki Rd by Southgate Mall, putting into the water in a narrow canal cut into a marshy area. We could see a lot of gulls congregating at the other end of this canal, so we figured it emptied into the ocean. Turns out we were right, but, not in the way we imagined.

Deploying boats in a drainage canal

The canal came to an abrupt end, narrowing into a culvert that ran under the hillside. The culvert was large enough that we

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Snake Island location thumbnailFour of us went to Snake Island in a couple of canoes. It's a long way: 6 km from Downtown Nanaimo. The waters were calm that day, which was very good because Snake Island is out in the bigger waters of the Georgia Straight, and canoes aren't good for that.

It took an hour to inch across that expanse of ocean, safely out of the way of freighters and the three BC Ferries routes. As we got farther out to sea, Nanaimo opened up behind us, and the mountains got a lot bigger.

Paddlers approaching Snake Island

As we approached the island, we could see there were already tons of mammals already occupying the beach, and they were staring right at us. Were they murderous, two-tonne sea lions bent on our destruction? Or, just cute seals the size of golden retrievers? It was hard to tell

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If you live in Nanaimo and haven't heard this story...

1910:
The scene: An explosives factory above the shore of Departure Bay, at the bottom of today's Cilaire neighbourhood. (Cilaire is named for the last powder works to occupy the space.)

What happened: An explosion ripped the place apart. It was so powerful that it wrapped a rail around a tree - here's a photo:

Rail wrapped around tree trunk

That explosion also killed five men. Three kilometers away, the people of Nanaimo thought there had been another disaster in the mines underground.

1913:

Jan01: A new four-sided clock, Nanaimo's pride and joy, is set in motion for the first time on the (already old) sandstone post office overlooking the harbour on Front St.
Here's a photo of that post office (I freaking love

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I've become accustomed to canoeing home from work in the evenings, to my place on Protection Island. I love it.

But I was annoyed at work today, because my canoe was back on the island without me (long story), so I was going to be riding the boring old ferry home instead of having my personal time with the ocean.

It was a hot day (32°C?), so it was easy to decide —once and for all— to swim home to Protection Island. I've always thought it would be cool to swim across the channel from the Yacht Club to Newcastle, and I think every capable Protection Island resident should consider swimming home at least once.

 Swim route to Protection Island

I told everyone at work that I was going to do it, so that I couldn't psyche myself out later, when I would be standing in my ginch

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