Friends Of Mack Laing Nature Park working to keep the "nature" in Mack Laing Nature Park

THE FRIENDS OF MACK LAING NATURE PARK is a group of neighbours and frequent users of the Park. Since 2014 many of us have been concerned with the effects of proposed construction and development in this quiet natural space. In 1973, Mack Laing gave the residents of Comox a marvelous gift: almost 9 acres of land and his house – known as “Shakesides” – to be used as “a public nature park” for all to enjoy.

Mack’s gift came with several conditions which he set out in a 1973 “Deed of Transfer”. He wanted the property to be:

  • “used as a public nature park, for recreation and conservation purposes”; and
  • “left undisturbed to the greatest extent possible in its natural state, the natural flora to be undisturbed”.

He also stated that “public vehicular traffic … shall not be permitted.”

An overview of Mack Laing Nature Park and Shakesides.

The vision of the Friends of Mack Laing Nature Park is to preserve and maintain Mack Laing Nature Park in a way that is consistent with the terms of the original 1973 Deed of Transfer.

This an illustration that the Attorney General’s lawyer used in her court documents. It neatly sums up the difference between the 1973 Trust gift of land and Shakesides as a park and the 1982 gift of money that Mack hoped could be used to turn Shakesides into a natural history museum.

Shortly before his death in 1982, Mack decided to leave the cash residue of his estate to the Town to be used for the improvement and maintenance of Shakesides—a building he no longer owned—as a “natural history museum” in perpetuity. There is now a proposal before Comox Council to renovate Shakesides as a public “nature house”. The Town has struggled with this second gift for decades because those funds have never been sufficient for this purpose.

Shakesides in November, 2018

Any renovation of Shakesides will be subject to current public access and building codes and will require road building, bridge building, parking, additional services (including lighting), and security for the building and its contents. We are concerned that this development will have permanent unintended consequences for the Park to remain in its natural state.

Built on a floodplain, Shakesides often suffers extensive flooding.
Whilst the image on the south of Shakesides is from high tides, the view from the north side is caused by rain only.

Our Mission is to honour Mack Laing’s wishes in a way that respects current realities:

  • to ensure that the fragile ecosystems of Mack Laing Nature Park and Brooklyn Creek remain free of the negative effects of vehicular traffic and building construction; and,
  • to ensure that Comox taxpayers are not burdened in perpetuity with the costs of maintaining and running another public facility.

To learn more, download the June, 2016 Mack Laing Nature House Comittee Report.

There is no dispute that Mack Laing should be honoured. The question facing us today is not whether to preserve and remember our history, but how it should be done.

In June 1983, Mack’s long-time friend and noted environmentalist, Ruth Masters, dedicated the Mack Laing cairn in a special ceremony held in the Park. She said the cairn would “stand as a reminder to future Comox residents and politicians that the Laing property is always to remain in its natural state as a park”.

Those of us who feel passionately about Mack’s original gift feel an intense need to protect what he called the “quiet beauty” of the Park—truly Mack Laing’s very real and important legacy. To learn more, please click on the link below to download The Future Of Mack Laing Nature Park & Shakesides.


Video created by Mary Hodkin

FRIENDS OF MACK LAING NATURE PARK can be contacted at friendsofmlnp@gmail.com

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Friends Of Mack Laing Nature Park

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