Ladysmith residents will have to decide the best use for the old train station near the waterfront and whether they want to put in the time and effort necessary to repurpose it.
That was the message delivered by representatives of track owners the Island Corridor Foundation during a rainy on-site meeting with members of various community groups last week.
“We are not in the business of being landlords,” said ICF CEO Larry Stevenson. “It is up to the town of Ladysmith to work with the community to find the best use for the station that complements the waterfront plan and the future uses for the railway.”
Stevenson and ICF manager of corridor development Andrea Thomas provided an update on plans, answered questions, and confirmed their hope that a committee could be formed to review options for the building’s future.
The Town of Ladysmith has no current plans to form such a committee. It would be up to citizens at large to carry the torch for revitalizing the building, which is in a considerable state of disrepair.
Options won’t include commercial operations, as the ICF recently voted to disallow commercial use of its remaining stations.
Potential uses under discussion included a First Nations cultural display, possibly in partnership with a new Tourism Visitors Centre. However, Ladysmith and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Mark Drysdale said that while the proximity to the highway and heritage centre had value, until there were other people using the area on a full time basis he did not want to have his staff at risk in the more isolated location.
Quentin Goodbody and Marina Sacht from the Ladysmith and District Historical Society asked about the possibility of using the location for the town museum.
One of the reasons the ICF is not interested in the building is that it is not the original train station and it does not have heritage value. Another is that any trains that run in the future will not need stations as tickets will be purchased online via an app or through a kiosk.
The meeting was initiated by Ladysmith’s Bill Drysdale and Chuck Forrest who almost singlehandedly have been clearing and cleaning up the area around the station and keeping graffiti at bay.
While Stevenson was pleased with the work that Drysdale and his team had done there was concern about trees that had been taken down by the work parties previously. Drysdale stated that the trees needed to be taken down for the safety of the building and to prevent further vandalism.
“We plan to start clearing the bush and blackberries for 20 feet from both sides of the track,” Stevenson said. “We will not be taking down any trees, that is not in our mandate.”
One idea that everyone agreed on was the possibility of running a train from Nanaimo to Ladysmith for the Festival of Lights.
More information on the Railway Station, plans for the future of the railway and the ICF can be found on the website www.islandrail.ca.