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Denman Island protesters block ferry terminal expansion

On Monday, B.C. Ferries’ contractor from Campbell River was prevented from cutting down trees to make way for the expanded Gravelly Bay B.C. Ferries terminal

Denman Island protesters are standing guard over more than 100 trees to protect them from being logged to make way for an expanded B.C. Ferries terminal.

About 30 people showed up on Wednesday morning at the Gravelly Bay terminal, which links ferries to nearby Hornby Island, said area resident C Urquhart.

Some have been camping overnight since Monday.

Protesters are calling on B.C. Ferries to embark on a fresh round of consultation about the best way to deal with heavy traffic at the terminal, particularly in summer, when vehicles sometimes wait for hours to board a ferry.

That creates a safety issue that needs to be dealt with, said Urquhart, who argues that previous consultation with B.C. Ferries didn’t take into account other scenarios that could protect the trees, mainly Douglas Fir with some Western Red Cedar and alder. “They need to start that process all over again.”

The protest kicked off in earnest Monday when B.C. Ferries’ contractor from Campbell River was prevented from cutting down trees by 75 to 100 protesters, Urquhart said. RCMP from Vancouver Island attended and spoke with protesters.

Contractor crews left early Monday afternoon, but their equipment is believed to be still on the island, she said.

B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said in a statement that the protests have stalled work on the terminal project, which includes a larger holding space for vehicles and designated pickup and drop-off lanes.

She said the work is in response to community consultation in 2017 and 2018 where the small vehicle holding compound was identified as a safety concern. “Without a larger vehicle holding compound, current safety risks are heightened as well as traffic backups on the two-lane, residential, road that leads to the Denman East terminal.”

Terminal work was delayed earlier because of the pandemic, Marshall said, adding the community has also asked for bigger vessels with more vehicle capacity on its route.

“It’s unfortunate that the community is unable to reach consensus on this project and that one group’s views [are] creating further delays.”

Urquhart said there are a number of other ways to handle traffic, including using larger ferries, implementing a reservation system or running a ferry between Buckley Bay on Vancouver Island and Shingle Spit on Hornby without stops at Denman, noting drivers often race between the two terminals on Denman to catch ferries.

So far, Urquhart said, B.C. Ferries is not coming to the table, which is frustrating. “They are not listening to our concerns.”

Urquhart said retaining trees like the ones near East Road is important as summers become increasingly hotter, adding visitors come to the island because of its rugged beauty.

Marshall said B.C. Ferries is currently considering project timelines, cost and the impending nesting season, “in conjunction with the community’s apparent divide on the future of the Denman East project” and will “communicate next steps shortly.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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