The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District will hold a stakeholders meeting on Monday, Aug. 16 to talk about options for marine service to Bamfield.
“The ACRD and Huu-ay-aht First Nations are aware and very concerned about the notification of termination of the Lady Rose Marine Services,” ACRD Area A (Bamfield) director Bob Beckett said. Beckett will facilitate the meeting between representatives to whom the marine service is important. This includes MLA Josie Osborne and someone from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, he said.
“We are taking steps to find alternate service providers.”
Mike Surrell, owner of Lady Rose Marine Services, announced last week that the company will close at the end of the month and the last trip for the MV Frances Barkley passenger and cargo vessel will be Aug. 31. All sailings are fully booked until then. Surrell said 17 months of COVID-19 restrictions and a lack of tourist business have forced him to close.
“The community is gravely concerned, especiallly business and mercantile folks and those in the tourist industry,” Beckett said. “I think there is a need to have strong advocacy for continuing or replacing the service.
“While I feel terrible for Mike (Surrell) and his staff, it’s important that someone coordinates efforts to find alternative solutions to our problem.”
The role of the ACRD is to address challenges to its residents “and advocate for change,” Beckett added.
Huu-ay-aht First Nations councillor Trevor Cootes said the nation is concerned how the cessation of marine services will affect the businesses it operates in Bamfield and Anacla—west coast communities only accessible by boat, float plane or driving the unpaved Bamfield Main Road.
“All these businesses require supplies and goods, and a lot of them come down on the Lady Rose Marine Services (vessel)…the Frances Barkley was a way in, a critical piece of infrastructure not only for Anacla but for the people of Bamfield as well.”
Cootes said the Huu-ay-aht are still pushing for completion of road improvements. Beckett said the road is an important cog in transportation in addition to marine travel. “The road, when it’s completed, will take some pressure off depending solely on water. That’s two or three years out, from what I understand.
“I hope we can have both a viable road network and some marine service as well.”
News of the MV Frances Barkley’s final voyage has caused a huge stir of emotions: historic, romantic and practical. Bill McGuire owns a bed and breakfast in the Alberni Valley and says losing the Frances Barkley will mean a loss for his business. He has started a GoFundMe to raise $100,000 to save the Frances Barkley and Lady Rose Marine Services.