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LETTER: New Beacon Wharf would support economic diversity

I would like to respond to your Oct. 27 article regarding a Sidney councillor’s views about removing the Beacon Wharf.

Historically, federal governments installed these facilities in most coastal communities to support the marine economy vital to these communities. Several decades ago Fisheries and Oceans (in my opinion) lost interest in supporting public access infrastructure that connected coastal communities with the ocean. They began to divest their responsibility for docks and wharves along the B.C. coast.

While some facilities shifted to the Small Craft Program many communities chose to take over major wharves rather than lose this asset (2006 for Beacon Street wharf). As these wharves aged and required costly repairs, communities seemed left with few options – repair or remove. Unfortunately, the short-term cost-benefit solution would suggest removing the problem. But I would like to suggest an additional longer-term option.

In many European and east coast communities the senior governments partnered with communities and built permanent concrete wharves. A permanent, low-maintenance, public option that could support marine-related business and recreational activities for many decades. For some reason, the federal government has not shared this long-term solution with community wharves on the west coast.

Sidney’s waterfront currently has walkways, breakwaters and marinas that are permanent – rock, concrete or blocks. As council continues its deliberations about the future of the main wharf, I believe a third option to consider is extending the existing causeway and adding a block and concrete wharf which would complete the sense of permanence which already exists along the waterfront.

Although we have great private and small craft harbours facilities, a public wharf is a significant statement of economic diversity and marine access for the general public. I would suggest that the provincial and federal governments need to be encouraged to partner with marine communities and ensure that in 50 or 100 years we still have facilities on the ocean that provide a place where there are both economic and recreational opportunities for the public to enjoy and remember how important is our connection with the oceans.

Bill Irving

North Saanich