Giant Hogweed – it’s in the ‘hood

Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is a member of the parsley or carrot family, Apiaceae (Umbelliferae). As its name indicates it is characterized by its size and may grow to 15 to 20 feet in height.

Giant hogweed is a tenacious perennial, which is difficult to eradicate. It is currently on the federal noxious weed list. Its placement on the list is due to its potential menace as a public health hazard. It has been spotted in various locations in the old city.

If you spot small giant hogweed plants, they can be dug-out, but care should be taken to remove much of the root stalk. This can be difficult and unpleasant. Always wear protective clothing and avoid getting the sap on your skin. Mowing serves only to stimulate budding on the perennating root stalk, but might be successful if done consistently and persistently enough to starve the rootstalk. If you find a large plant, please call the City of Nanaimo Parks Maintenance at 250-755-7515 and report to the Horticultural officer Susan Zaric. You can find more information by reading this short information sheet from the City of Nanaimo.

Let’s work to rid our neighbourhood of this pesky and troublesome plant.

Celebration Party on September 23!

Mark your calendars for Saturday, September 23! We are planning a party to celebrate how much we love living in the old city. Join us in Pawson Park (corner of Franklyn and Machleary Streets) from 1 to 3 pm.

Bring lunch or a snack to enjoy.

Listen to the musical stylings of Hip Billy.

Participate in our plant and seed exchange. Renew your NOCA membership

Learn about ways to retrofit your home. Bring your e-bikes! Let’s have lots of fun with our neighbours! We LOVE living in the old city!

Reclaiming the parkette

A group of NOCA volunteers have been working hard to re-imagine and refresh the green space/parkette located at Milton and Franklyn Streets. We have received a number of complaints about this boulevard and have some suggestions to improve it with the city’s permission.

View the PDF drawings and sketches below. And then provide us with your feedback by commenting on this post or by emailing

Parkette Plan

Parkette Plant List

Parkette Plant Palette

Planting Plan

Our Rationale for the changes

1.) Safety. Sight lines obstructed by roses creating a danger of children using the crosswalk. The current height of the rose bushes are 3 feet 7 inch. 

Justification: According to the city of Nanaimo’s guidelines for boulevards:

Plant Selection and Maintenance

· For boulevard areas near intersections, driveways, curbs, sidewalk edges and/or where visibility may be a concern, select low-growing plants that are no taller than 60cm. As these roses have been planted by the city, we request that the city remove them, ideally replanting them further down on the boulevard on Milton where there is no crosswalk. Again we refer to city guidelines. 

· If the plant heights are deemed to be a visibility or safety concern, or do not meet the above guidelines, the City of Nanaimo reserves the right to ask that the plants be trimmed or to have them removed.

We would like to see white winter heather planted in this section of the boulevard to again follow the city guidelines. Choose drought-tolerant plants, native plants, and plants with winter interest to create a water wise boulevard that looks great in all seasons.

The benefit of heather is that maintenance will be minimal and only require an annual trim along the sidewalk. The current selection of roses have not been adequately trimmed leading us to our second concern with its current condition. 

The lack of care of the area is making it attractive for drug use and littering of drug paraphernalia. Small children attend music lessons beside the park at Cross Canada Fiddle. Dog owners with pets will not walk their dogs through the park for concerns of stepping on a needle. Fires are being used to inhale fumes of drug substances and the material is being left and unattended.

2.) Appearance. The lack of care and maintenance for the roses looks messy and un-cared for.


Well maintained green spaces Green spaces entice neighbours outdoors on a regular basis, where they build friendships and community ties Studies show that neighbourhood beautification can reduce crime rates: In a study of inner-city neighbourhoods in the U.S., greener residences had lower crime rates, Inner-city families with trees and greenery in their immediate outdoor surroundings have safer domestic environments, Neighbourhoods with well-cared for landscapes contribute to reduced feelings of fear and violence. Community beautification raises community and individual pride, and often brings a community closer together for common activities, with noticeable crime reduction effects. In one example, Pond Street in New Haven, Connecticut, suffered from the presence of illegal drug sales, trash, loiterers, and noise complaints from residents. The Block Watch resolved to take back some of its territory by planting flowers along curbsides and in a blighted lot on the corner. With 100 percent participation of their group, they turned the neighborhood into a beautiful garden. Other cleanups and beautification seemed to flow naturally. The beautification idea has now spread to nearby streets. Besides the visual benefits of beautification, crime has receded.

Other noteworthy studies:

A benefit of the replacement of the roses to heather plants would bring the maintenance of the plants to a trim once a year and a mulching in the spring until they are established. Once established they will only need a yearly trim. These plants will also make the area unwalkable making it necessary that individuals use the sidewalk as intended.

We at NOCA are willing to purchase heather plants and move the roses if the city does not have finances or the manpower at this time. We will also transplant the roses further down the boulevard along Milton where sightlines are not an issue. This is especially important to us as a neighborhood as the house directly beside this boulevard has a home based business teaching small children music. The risks of sightlines and the negative social ramifications of the current lack of care of this boulevard is too much and we need a change.  

3. Accessibility

The movement of the benches would allow people with mobility issues to access them. Where they currently are does not make them accessible for people who cannot walk on uneven ground especially during the wet season. 

4. Damage to the tree roots.

Walking to the bench is damaging the roots of the city tree. For the long term health of the tree having this area not be walked on would be beneficial.  

Helping our unsheltered neighbours

Are you interested in joining our “unsheltered neighbours working group?”

A goal is support our unsheltered neighbours and find solutions to stop the vandalism, fires, drug use in front of areas where children gather in the old city.  All residents of the old city are welcome to attend our working group meetings which happen once a month either 10:30 am at La Isla Cafe or evening meetings at 7 pm at the Black Rabbit restaurant.

Upcoming Meetings
Wednesday, July 19 – 7 to 8 pm
Wednesday, September 20 – 7 to 8 pm
Wednesday, October 18 – 10:30 to 11:30 am
Wednesday, November 15 – 7 to 8 pm

The importance of sheltering people from the cold and who are in need is seen and felt, nonetheless the crime and disruption into the neighbourhood needs to be discussed with the service providers and the city. 

NOCA has established a working group to focus on the unsheltered members of our neighbourhood. The group is chaired by long-time old city resident Doug Creba, and reports to the NOCA Board. There are currently five NOCA members on the working group. If you are interested in joining, please let us know.

Who are we? – A working group reporting to the NOCA Board – We are focused on unsheltered members of our community who are having a negative impact on our community and can often be disruptive.

Who can participate? – All residents of the old city are welcome to participate. Membership in NOCA (or not) is not a limiting factor to participation. Please share this invitation with all your neighbours so they have the option to be involved.

People taking a lead 

1. Are members of NOCA

2. Report back to NOCA 

3. Require NOCA approval for any actions taken

MANDATE – We are a working committee of NOCA and we only work within the old city boundaries

CHAIR — Doug Creba

SCOPEWe are separate from the group working with the overnight shelter operators at St. Peter’s Catholic Church. here may be overlaps in our work but we can manage those as they become apparent. We see our mandate as addressing issues related to and arising from the unsheltered community within our area. We are not mandated to deal with zoning, parking or major crime etc.

CARING and RESPECT– One guiding principle is that we must always work in a respectful manner; respect for all individuals involved or impacted. 

PURPOSE – Identify issues in the neighbourhood as they arise; share information: 

1. through NOCA social media

2. word of mouth

3. contact with City

4. contact with Police

Organize support and report to

1. City 

2. MLA’s and Premier

3. Police

4. Organizers for support for the homeless like the Nanaimo Family Life Association which operates the winter overnight shelter at St Peter’s Catholic Church.

COMMUNITY – Our interaction may involve but is not limited to :

* St Peter’s shelter — staff and clients (during shelter operation – December 1 to March 31
* Nanaimo Family Life Association
* Connective (formerly John Howard Society)
* Risebridge
* Safe Injection site on Dunsmuir Street
* Block Watch
* Pauline Haraar school
* City of Nanaimo, Community Safety Officers and other relevant departments
* BC Housing

Concerns around current supports for the homeless

1. Risebridge Warming Centre – needs longer hours 

2. St. Peters winter shelter – Security Issues with security guards not always showing up and not having authority to move people on.

3. Safe Injection Site at Albert and Dunsmuir Streets uses security and staff to reduce impact

ISSUES – The following information is just a starting point and more issues may arise in the future.

Hot spots– places where our attention is drawn due to activity in that place

* Pawson Park
* St Peter’s parking lot
* All along the train track Albert, Fitzwilliam behind Old City Panache and fire department offices
* Franklyn Street park at Milton Street
* Old Hospital site (388 Machleary Street)
* Wellesley Street – Delicados Restaurant
* TELUS building – Fitzwilliam Street at Wallace Street
* Railways
* Laneways 

Areas close by that may result in overlap (outside NOCA boundary but the issues do not respect boundaries) 

* Risebridge on Prideaux Street.
* Cat Stream at Third Street
* downtown

BEHAVIOURS that are not welcome

* theft, B&E etc.
* open drug use
* loud behaviour all times of day 
* littering – garbage and sharps
* setting fires
* vandalism (rocks through windows) 
* graffiti 

ACTIONS, – Techniques and methods for response to issues

1. Block Watch 

2. Good Neighbour Agreements

3. Vacant Property Act (Fire and police can come in without a warrant; used in Harewood to shut down crack houses. Bylaw officers do have power if they are ordered to use it. This kind of legislation would provide permitting and monitoring

4. Shelter Bylaws – To set rules for operation

5. Resiliency Action Teams needed – Quick response to problems. Harewood has a person who cleans up graffiti and a nuisance property person

6. Reporting

7. Community Patrol 

8. Communication with Support Groups for Homeless

9. Passive Intervention 

10. Regular meetings of neighbourhood committee

11. Regular clean up of streets, litter and more including SHARPS

If you’d like to be part of the solution and care about your neighbourhood, please get in touch with us at

From your unsheltered neighbours working group

Cleanup a Success!

Thank you to the city of Nanaimo for the donation of mulch for our beautification of the boulevards and alleyways as well as the clean up gear and garbage pick up for our annual spring clean up.

Thank you Joel and Melissa, you are cleaning all-stars. 

Thank you White Rabbit cafe for our volunteer treats.

Thank you to all of our neighbourhood volunteers. 

Spring Cleanup – Mark your calendar!

Is it spring yet? We are organizing our spring cleanup on Saturday April 15.

Get outside and clean your yards, boulevards, and streets. Mow your lawn, Tidy your yard and help a neighbour. Wear a green shirt. Contact us at info@nanaimooldcityassociation if you would like to volunteer to help pick up garbage and continue to beautify the old city!

Meet at Pawson Park at 1:45 pm for garbage bags, pickers and vest supplied by the city of Nanaimo.
2 pm- 3 pm Clean a section of street that you choose in the old city.
3 pm Sharp. Drop off your garbage bag at Pawson Park for the city to pick up and return your gear. This is for garbage pick up on the streets and alleyways by our volunteers only.
3:30 pm meet at White Rabbit Cafe for coffee/tea and to celebrate!

Cleaning up the Cat Stream

On February 18, 2023 another work party convened on the Cat Stream in the old city. Over 50 plants and trees were planted including Western Red Cedar, Pacific Ninebark and Hardhack in an effort to restore and support the riparian zone. Lots of invasive Himalayan Blackberry was removed too!

The work crew!
Hard at work!
Planting new trees!

Haggis Alert!

The hunt is on.
Authorities are combing the Old City Quarter following reports of Haggis fighting in the area. Apparently some young alpha male haggis which recently escaped from the Haggis farm at Mount Benson have become unruly following tussles with the local rabbit population over grazing rights. Media spokesperson Willie McBungle the local Conversation Officer (or should that be Conservation Officer) issued the following statement: “We expect to have the situation under control very quickly. Fortunately McLean’s Specialty Foods holds exclusive title to the hereditary Haggis harvesting license, and they have agreed to round up these critters and sell them off in time for Robbie Burns Day on January 25.” Just like in the fabled story, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, McLean’s will use the services of a piper to lead them to their fate on the 25th. Hopefully there will then be peace in the area at least until next year!

Boulevard Garden Guidelines

The City of Nanaimo defines a boulevard “as the area between the street curb and the sidewalk, owned by the City, that’s typically planted with grass and trees. Residents may transform the boulevard adjacent to their home into a well-designed and well- maintained garden using this guide. Boulevard gardens can create more beautiful, interesting and diverse streets, add character to neighbourhoods and increase feelings of community pride. They also provide environmental benefits such as increasing ecological diversity and providing bird, butterfly and pollinator habitats.”

NOCA has an active boulevard beautification program. Contact us at if you’d like to get involved and learn more from your neighbours who are beautifying their boulevards.

Learn more on the City of Nanaimo website.