Denman Island protesters are celebrating B.C. Ferries’ announcement that it is temporarily halting terminal expansion work at Gravelly Bay pending community consultation later in the year.
Protesters gathered daily this week to block workers from cutting down about 100 native trees — mainly Douglas fir — to make way for a larger vehicle-holding space.
The corporation said in a statement Thursday that it has decided not to proceed with the Denman East terminal expansion project “at this time so that further re-engagement with the community can occur later this year.”
Protester C Urquhart called the news excellent. “That’s amazing. Yay. I’m thrilled.”
While B.C. Ferries makes plans to reopen talks with Denman residents over the terminal, Urquhart said residents are aiming to put together their own consultation process to determine how best to proceed.
“We are going to make sure that word gets out all across the island,” she said, adding the community’s plan will be presented to B.C. Ferries. “As a community, we are going to take some control of how that process moves forward.”
It makes sense for residents to put together a plan, Urquhart said. “We are the ones living here.”
There is little argument that something needs to be done about the ferry terminal — summer lineups can last for hours, with vehicles parked along a road not designed for heavy traffic.
“We want to eliminate the traffic jams, not accommodate them. So that’s the basis of our plan going forward,” Urquhart said.
One thing that isn’t on the table, however, is eliminating the trees, she said. “We collectively here have decided that we are not going to bend on that issue. So if B.C. Ferries tries to come back and say: ‘We have to go and cut this many trees,’ we will just be back here again.”
B.C. Ferries said community consultations in 2017 and 2018 identified safety concerns including inadequate pick-up and drop-off lanes at the terminal as well as traffic backups on the two-lane residential road that leads to it.
With the terminal expansion postponed again — it was already delayed once before because of the pandemic — the corporation called on motorists and pedestrians to proceed with “due care and attention” to minimize safety risks in the area.
Several ideas are being raised by ferry users about ways to help improve the situation.
Some have called for a larger vessel to run between Denman and nearby Hornby Island.
But B.C. Ferries cautions that may not solve the problem and could even make it worse.
It says a larger vessel on the route wouldn’t necessarily reduce traffic that lines up along the residential road approaching the terminal.
“A vessel with more capacity may in fact increase demand and exacerbate the current situation or at the very least have no effect,” it said.
It defended plans to expand the terminal, saying a larger vehicle lot provides certainty that safety concerns associated with congestion are addressed.
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