The North Saanich Residents Association has renewed calls for an additional public boat launch.
Association president John Kafka wrote in a June 3 letter to local, provincial and federal authorities that North Saanich lacks “safe, affordable public marine access facilities” for individuals with limited budgets, small crafts and no moorage. He added later that neither major marine centre at Swartz Bay or Tsehum Harbour include public launch facilities.
Kafka said Tulista Park in Sidney remains the only public boat launch facility on the Saanich Peninsula, with no public launch facility available for over 20 nautical miles, from Goldstream in the Saanich Inlet to Sidney in Haro Strait.
He added that demand at Tulista Park often overburdens the facility.
“Despite the efficiency of the launch facility, parking for vehicles with trailers is maxed out and the Town of Sidney is forced to ticket vehicles in areas where trailer parking is not permitted,” he wrote. “On weekends, the streets in Sidney are filled with vehicles with trailers (and) the dedication of additional street parking by the town has not alleviated the demand for parking.”
Boat owner Paul Charlebois, who uses the Tulista launch about a dozen times a year, strongly agrees with the demand. The limited number of facilities in Greater Victoria, coupled with parking restrictions at Tulista Park, sometimes sees him drive to Ladysmith to launch. He generally likes the Sidney launch but would like to see any future one in more a sheltered area.
Kafka’s letter highlights other public launch facilities in the region, if only to underscore their unavailability and inaccessibility.
The Goldstream Boat House at the south end of Saanich Inlet “is very hard to access” from Highway 1 and a “very long way from North Saanich, Sidney, Brentwood Bay and the communities on the Peninsula,” he said.
Other boat launch facilities are located on the southern tip of Island, far from the protected waters of the Gulf Islands and the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, a popular boating destination for Saanich Peninsula residents.
Kafka also mentions the private launch facility run by the Tsartlip First Nation in Brentwood Bay, noting that the facility closed ‘indefinitely’ in March 2020, while raising the possibility it could reopen in future.
The Peninsula News Review reached out twice to Tsartlip CEO Andrew Leach to enquire about the status of the boat launch but did not receive a reply by the time of writing.
The letter points to three possible options within and in the vicinity of the Institute for Ocean Sciences in Patricia Bay and makes a case for the federal government’s purchase of Queen Mary Bay and its addition to the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.
Kafka acknowledged potential locations for a public launch facility are under the control of various jurisdictions but voiced hopes those bodies can coordinate efforts to improve public access and economic activity.
The letter does not mention the public boat launch at Island View Beach, which in past has been the subject of controversy over its condition and impact on the local ecology.
Christiana Jones, communications coordinator with the Capital Regional District, said that ramp is located outside of Island View Beach Regional Park on provincially-owned Crown foreshore.
“The future of the boat launch is not clear at this time,” she said. “The CRD is focused on completing the management plan for Island View Beach Regional Park. The previously presented draft management plan recommended that the CRD facilitate a multi-stakeholder process to investigate options for the boat launch.”
Britt Burnham, spokesperson for the District of Central Saanich, said as far as the municipality knows, the boat launch is currently not operational.
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