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Rising seas and age could put demolition on the horizon for Sidney's Beacon Wharf

Demolition and not replacing is among the options being considered for Sidney’s Beacon Wharf as the town goes through suggestions from more than 1,000 of its residents on what to do with the aging structure.
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Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith on Beacon Wharf. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Demolition and not replacing is among the options being considered for Sidney’s Beacon Wharf as the town goes through suggestions from more than 1,000 of its residents on what to do with the aging structure.

An engineering report found that the wharf will need major money to extend its life beyond 2028. That report prompted Sidney council to seek advice from its citizens.

“Council appreciates this is iconic and special in the community and we are in this discussion and started it early because we understand the wharf is nearing the end of its life,” said Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith. “Knowing it is iconic and special we wanted to take all of the necessary time to plan for its future.”

The wharf, which extends from the end of Beacon Avenue and houses a fish market, restaurant and lookout, has been a staple in the town from more than 100 years.

It had its last major renovation 60 years ago, and since Sidney took control of it from the federal government in 2006, it has had more than $400,000 plowed into it to make it safe.

After consulting with engineers, Sidney has considered two options — a floating wharf that could handle structures and offer significant access to the water for businesses and services, or allowing the existing wharf to remain as-is until the end of its safe life and not replacing it.

McNeil-Smith said considering cost estimates for replacement range from $10 million to $17 million, demolition and not replacing the structure are plausible options.

Maintaining the status quo, however, does not appear to be on the menu. McNeil-Smith noted any kind of replacement would have to be built for a 50-year life and would have to take into account climate change, rising sea levels and storm surges.

That ruled out replacing it with a new piled wharf or stepped berm as it would have to be built more than two metres higher than the existing wharf and would detract from existing views and not work well with existing road infrastructure.

The town has just completed an extensive public consultation that included public meetings, online information and a special edition of Sidney’s Town Talk newsletter that was devoted to the project and included a survey for residents to voice their opinion.

McNeil-Smith said that process may yield more options.

“We knew other ideas would come, beyond what we had considered,” he said, noting he has also fielded calls, emails and letters suggesting everything from slight tweaks to the existing wharf structure to a complete overhaul and all stops in between.

Town staff are expected to summarize the more than 1,000 survey responses and present it to council in November.

McNeil-Smith said the town started this process early in order to take its time in making a decision. “We are not up against a time barrier this year or next,” he said. “We wanted to engage the community.”

There is no hard timeline on progressing with the project and for the time being it is taking a back seat to the town’s Official Community Plan review, which the town hopes to have completed before next fall and the end of this council’s term in office, he said.

aduffy@timescolonist.com