Gerry Thomasen's Blog

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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