COMOX, B.C. – A viewing platform at Mack Laing Nature Park took another step forward, after its redesign was given a first round of approval by Comox Council members on Wednesday afternoon.

The platform redesign is expected to get final approval during the May 15th regular council meeting.

Mayor Russ Arnott said the new redesign “looked great.”

“I think we’ve captured a lot of the ideas that the residents had,” Arnott said.

“It will now go to our regular council meeting next Wednesday to be approved. We will approve it then and our next steps is to talk to… KFN (K’ómoks First Nation) and just give them an overview of what we’re doing, and then we’ll present it to the attorney general and we’ll just wait for court dates,” Arnott said.

Councillor Ken Grant said after getting public feedback on March 27th, the redesign was “a pretty good compromise.”

“I think they toned down the colours and added some of the features that made it just a nicer look than it had been before,” Grant said. “So I think it looks pretty nice.”

Grant said once it receives final approval, the next step would be to send the platform plans to the attorney general and “then it would move forward after that.”

The design includes:

  • A boardwalk that will formalize the link between Baybrook, (Mack Laing’s first home) and the proposed viewpoint at Shakesides (his second home). In so doing the history of his time in Comox is consolidated and made evident in a natural park environment.
  • A partial roof, as a full roof has concerns with shade and algae growth and could encourage unauthorized use. According to a report from O’Brien, this smaller roof area will… “give a degree of shelter where a passing conversation or small picnic could be enjoyed in an open air feel.”
  • The opportunity for celebratory work to be engraved in the ceiling panels is roughly indicated. The final installations could be writings by Mack Laing’s, or his art work and could also include commemorative statements.
  • The number of interpretive panels on the floor space has been reduced to one in order to simplify the setting.
  • The steel frame that supports the roof assembly “is a deep reddish brown colour intended to harmonize with park surroundings,” the report said. Steel framing has been used due to its strength, fire and vandal resistance. According to the report, a timber frame was a consideration, but less preferred due to the considerable angle bracing required and reduced resistance to fire, moisture and vandalism.
  • The elevation of the new Shakesides floor would be the same as the adjacent boardwalk. “This elevation ensures that waterfront views are not blocked and that wheel chairs can easily access the viewing area from both the boardwalk and the trail system behind,” the report said.
  • The deteriorated concrete retaining wall will be removed and replaced with large rounded boulders to better blend with the natural environment.
  • A railing has been added at the front which mimics the distinctive railing of Shakesides. “It also serves as a leaning area to enjoying the expansive view that Mack once enjoyed,” the report said. “The kitchen style table (as opposed to a park picnic table) is retained as in our original concept and in a placement similar to where Mack’s kitchen table would have been.”
  • The orange slab depicted earlier has been replaced with mortared flagstone contained within the surveyed footprint of Shakesides.
  • “A statue of Mack Laing, perhaps looking through binoculars, could be a welcome addition to the scheme,” O’Brien concluded in the report. “However, at this time this has not been included as factors of cost and security are issues that require consideration.”

Divisive issue

The Mack Laing Trust has been a polarizing issue for decades.

In 1973, Laing deeded his property and home to the Town of Comox.

In 1982, Laing also gave, in trust, the residual cash from his estate to the town. The trust fund currently sits at $256,000.

Since 1983, the town has operated the nature park, adding trails and interpretive signs to foster the public’s appreciation of nature.

The town rented out Shakesides until June 2014. And between 1982 and 2000, the town spent some of the trust fund to maintain ‘Shakesides,’ improve the park, and memorialize Laing.

Council has recently decided to move forward the town’s court application to modify the trust applicable to the money.

The town’s original proposal to the court was to disassemble Shakesides and use the money to construct a viewing site/platform in its place.