Sidney is an economic and boating hub for the Peninsula and Gulf Islands, yet there are no public docks near downtown. Meanwhile, many communities along the B.C. coast have docks for all to use. Why not Sidney? This oversight can be addressed as we choose a future for Beacon wharf.
For years the wharf provided Sidney a valuable link to the ocean, but in its twilight it has become merely a platform where the ocean is something to gaze at from above. Although this was not the wharf’s original intent, some feel it should be saved this way. I believe we should focus on preserving and fostering healthy interactions with the marine environment for future generations.
While docks allow people to come and go, they offer much more than moorage. To this end, the proposal with Sidney Waterfront Partnership (SWP) for a floating pontoon at Beacon Avenue has much potential: The pontoon can withstand severe year-round conditions and would be a breakwater for the leeward side. It could provide staging for more docks, giving extra space for recreation and possibly businesses such as food stands, water taxis, kayak rental, etc. Docks are a healthy habitat for marine life, a bonus that would also attract tourists and residents. With it, Sidney might become a prime host for events ranging from tall ship festivals to polar bear swims. It would be unaffected by sea-level rise.
There are disadvantages: The pontoon might give SWP undue leverage in town matters. It doesn’t provide much public space. It could limit other options for the area. It would cost homeowners $60-$80 per year for 25 years. It would also be the end of the iconic landmarks on the wharf. Or are they eyesores, representing a dubious colonial past, distracting from the area’s natural beauty? These questions are (fortunately) moot, since the wharf is near the end of its life, anyway.
The SWP proposal is facing an uphill battle. Some opposition is based on nostalgia, some on legitimate concerns. Whichever future is chosen, I hope we see the advantages of public docks close to downtown. Sidney “by the Sea” would then live up to its name, by having a genuine path to the ocean connecting us with the rest of coastal B.C.