Vancouver Island Exhibition - Update on Arbutus Meadows

Date: May 16, 2022

 

Over the past several weeks, news articles announced that the Vancouver Island Exhibition (VIEx) was moving its annual fair from Beban Park in Nanaimo to Arbutus Meadows Event and Equestrian Centre in Nanoose. To ensure that our community has the complete picture and understands what has transpired over the past two years, the VIEx Board of Directors wishes to release this statement.

When COVID-19 began in early 2020, no one could have anticipated the disruption the pandemic would cause. Realizing we would not be able to hold the 2020 annual agricultural fair, the Board of Directors (BOD) felt our planned dream of building an agricultural centre at Beban Park was in jeopardy. We would need to consider other alternatives for the future of the VIEx. During this time, a team from VIEx met with Robert Bau, General Manager of the Arbutus Meadows Event & Equestrian Centre. Our initial discussions were broad and informal – discovering interests and possibilities that both parties may benefit from working together in the future.

During the pandemic, the VIEx BOD identified four significant areas of concern that could potentially impact our future at Beban Park:

  1. Beban Park has been the home of the VIEx for over sixty-nine years, since the early 1950s. The existing barns have reached the end of their useful life and need replacement. The City of Nanaimo requested the VIEx construct an 'Agricultural Centre' rather than replace the smaller barns, estimated at over $4 million in 2019. Unfortunately, the estimate is now closer to $6 million. This infrastructure is currently in place at the Arbutus Meadows complex.

  2. The VIEx is outgrowing the current facilities at Beban Park. Changing health and bylaw regulations/restrictions make it difficult for the VIEx to plan and execute the fair in public park facilities. The Cliff McNabb and Frank Crane arenas are often unavailable for use, creating conflict with other events during the fair weekend and constant adjustments to accommodate different groups,

 

Challenges include:

- Parking in and around Beban Park is limited. The Arbutus Meadows site has sufficient parking space for our current and future needs.

- The fair layout is increasingly problematic as increasing conflicts with other user groups create competition for limited resources on the fair weekend. Arbutus Meadows is available for our exclusive use during the fair.

- Operating a fair in a public park setting is challenging as a fair requires large open spaces of land.

3. Over the past four and a half years, we have seen a significant increase in theft, vandalism and destruction of resources. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were lost due to intentionally set fires and vandalism, requiring the fair to rent additional equipment and incurring additional operational costs.

4. The VIEx is a premier event held each year in Nanaimo.  The fair has operated for one hundred and twenty-eight years, the last sixty-nine years at Beban Park. Historically, we have been a three-day agricultural fair educating our growing community about the benefits of agriculture in their lives. As urbanization increases, the VIEx looks to be more than a three-day event, offering our community year-round opportunities to learn and implement agriculture ranging from planting to consuming locally grown foods.

 

Although the pandemic restrictions have lifted, the VIEx decided to continue our discussions with Robert Bau. While both parties saw a potential for the VIEx to move up to Arbutus Meadows, we also knew that there would be potential hurdles to overcome.

 

In January of this year, we began the early steps to obtain the necessary approvals to allow the VIEx to operate an agricultural fair at Arbutus Meadows. The team met with the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) representatives. The RDN advised us that the RDN Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC) would AC voted unanimously to approve our application.

 

The next step was presenting to the Electoral Area Services Committee (EASC). The EASC unanimously approved our application on March 3, 2022, and ratified it at an RDN Board meeting on March 22, 2022. The application is currently being reviewed and considered by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).

 

Once we receive the ALC decision, the VIEx will review current and future opportunities at both facilities. We will announce any decisions regarding the VIEx through our Social Media and website feeds.

 

We welcome our community to ask questions or express their concerns regarding the future of the VIEx.

 

Please feel free to contact me directly at skass@viex.ca with your comments or concerns.

 

Stephen Kass

President

Vancouver Island Exhibition