On Tuesday morning, the James Island Public Dock was visibly free of cigarette butts and human feces. No visitors were in sight, except for municipal staff powerwashing the dock.
But according to neighbours, that was not the scene a few weeks ago, when a rare phenomenon known as a “squid run” attracted crowds to the normally quiet waterfront neighbourhood hoping to catch the hand-sized cephalopods.
Arn van Iersel, who was picking up some litter near his home on Turgoose Terrace, said he counted approximately 50 cars lined up on both sides of James Island Road and Turgoose Terrace on several mid-August nights.
“Could hardly get into my house because of the people,” he said. A 31-year resident of the area, van Iersel wrote to Central Saanich council asking for their assistance to tidy the area and enforce parking bylaws. He said he was not against the public enjoyment of the dock, but wanted people to respect the properties.
A neighbour of van Iersel’s, who was walking his two dogs, said the spot was becoming more popular for crabbing. As a result, people were leaving rubber gloves and raw chicken on the ground or near the water after they finished.
As a response, Central Saanich staff met with residents, placed extra garbage cans and portable toilets on the site, and they worked overtime on weekends to ensure they did not overflow. Central Saanich Police also patrolled the area to address parking violations and noise levels.
The portable toilets have addressed the issue of human feces on lawns, but caused a new problem: noise. To address this, signs in English, Spanish and Filipino (each bearing a “shhh” emoji) implored users: “PLEASE DO NOT SLAM THE DOOR.”
At the end of a six minute-long Regular Council meeting on Sept. 4, Central Saanich councillors received an update from municipal staff and discussed the issue.
According to one letter writer to the district: “The parking situation on James lsland Road verges on the chaotic. The No Parking signs are ignored. The doors of the portable toilets that have been installed slam all night long. Car alarms have gone off. All in all, it has been what we can only describe as barely controlled chaos, that has been highly disruptive.”
“Council is advised that the people on James Island Dock are not rowdy and there is no loud music,” read the staff comments. “The noise is simply due to people talking while they observe the squid, or while fishing.”
Residents wanted the dock closed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., but council has not yet pursued the request.
At the meeting, Coun. Bob Thompson asked whether the phenomenon, which has gone on for several weeks, had ended. Staff replied that it was dying down.
“Very few people, very few squid now,” said Brian Barnett, the district’s director of engineering.
“Calamari at the Prairie Inn, perhaps?” asked the mayor.
The words “too soon” were audible from the gallery amid some laughter.
“Too soon? Naw. Never too soon,” replied the mayor.