Nexen Beach. Newport Beach. The Oceanfront park.
The beachfront property just south of the downtown core has gone through many iterations in its storied lifetime.
But as of Aug. 14, the park was reborn as Sp’akw’us Feather Park.
John Matthews, the head of Matthews West — previously known locally as Matthews Southwest — said the name was chosen in collaboration with members of the Squamish Nation.
The name is a mix of the English and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh languages, which is meant to signify a unity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures, he said.
This christening happened during a “grand closing” event hosted by Matthews West — which is responsible for the Oceanfront Squamish development — and the annual Wind Festival.
The idea was to provide a grand hurrah for everyone to gather at the beach before construction starts to recreate the waterfront as a public park.
It will have a number of amenities, such as a water sports beach, recreation beach, large open green spaces, slacklines, public art installations, and trails linking the park to the surrounding community.
Upon completion, it will become a public park that will be given to the municipality and available for all to use.
“We know how important it is to the community, because it's important to us as well,” said Matthews. “I felt it deserved a moment for people to enjoy it before access was going to be limited.”
The Mamquam and Cattermole trails will remain open until further notice, and while construction is expected to last two years, Matthews said the company would do everything it can to open up access as soon as it can.
The event was also one of the first major public events in town that occurred since COVID-19, providing locals an opportunity to gather for the first time in over a year and a half.
“It felt like we had a really nice opportunity to actually bring people together and that felt good in and of itself,” Matthews said.
He added the park’s construction arrives after about 20 years of planning and preparation. The land previously required a major remediation effort, as the former Nexen plant was found to have contaminated the soil.
Personally, Matthews said he’s a fan of the upcoming intertidal marsh, which is expected to display a number of native plant species.
He also added that an upcoming open greenspace will serve as a great point for public gatherings such as the one that just occurred.
“Overall, as a community, I think the open space and access to the water is going to be something I just think, once it's there, people are going to be like, ‘How did we not have this before?’” Matthews said.
He also extended his thanks to the Wind Festival and the Squamish Arts Council, and said there may be a chance that there will be a celebration next year to celebrate the midpoint of the beach park’s construction.