Comment: Paddlers endangered by proposed marina

We are gravely concerned about the adverse impact on the safety of human-powered vessels posed by the marina development off the Songhees walkway on Victoria’s middle harbour area. The planned marina will dangerously obstruct an area that has been reserved for many years as a safe corridor for paddlers of all sorts.

Members of our non-profit paddling clubs, representing about 4,000 local paddlers, regularly travel from the Gorge Waterway, across the Inner Harbour to the harbour entrance and the open ocean beyond.

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Fairway Gorge Paddling Club, located just south of the Selkirk Trestle, is the largest and busiest training and recreational paddling facility on Vancouver Island. Statistics for the past year demonstrate their extensive use of the north shore corridor as part of their year round training programs: about 1,000 paddlers per week in six-person outrigger canoes (OC6), plus competitive and recreational smaller outrigger paddlers, and individual canoeists and kayakers.

Many more members of Vancouver Island Paddling, Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club, Ocean River Paddling Club and South Island Sea Kayaking Association also use the Songhees shore to travel in and out of the harbour safely throughout the year in a wide variety of outrigger canoes, ocean canoes, sea kayaks, surf skis and stand-up paddleboards.

The narrow (seven-metre) “paddling canal” planned between the Songhees Walkway shoreline park and the marina, with blind entrances on both ends, cannot be safely navigated by 45-foot OC6 boats, rowboats or other larger non-motorized craft.

Even 18-foot kayaks meeting unexpectedly in such a channel might be hard-pressed to navigate safely in all conditions. Consequently, many if not most paddlers will instead go around the outside of the proposed marina, adjacent to the seaplane and larger vessel traffic lanes, where the likelihood of serious marine incidents is greatly increased.

Paddling and rowing activities continue to expand in our area, prompting the growth of clubs and businesses to serve the needs of both active local residents and many tourists visiting Victoria. There is great economic benefit for Victoria in supporting developments that promote safe paddling, rather than restricting and endangering non-motorized vessel use of our beautiful harbour waters. The dragon boat and outrigger events regularly staged in the harbour waterways are highlights for Victoria, yet their viability will be put at risk by the current marina plan.

We question whether Transport Canada was well-informed about the safety of the boating public before approving the marina development plan, as the various Victoria paddling clubs were never consulted. We were also not consulted about the latest design changes to the proposed marina before they were adopted.

We have formally conveyed our safety concerns to all authorities, and we hope that decisions made can be reconsidered in the light of this information. We call upon the City of Victoria to immediately consult with paddling stakeholders and the public and to request a further review by Transport Canada before taking any further steps in approving this development.

We invite all concerned citizens to support our efforts to keep Victoria Harbour safe for paddlers and contact Victoria city council directly at mayorandcouncil@victoria.ca.

 

Erik Ages, Fairway Gorge Paddling Club; Barbara Abercrombie, Vancouver Island Paddling; Shawn Hamilton, Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club; Tim Houlihan, Ocean River Paddling Club; Alan Campbell, South Island Sea Kayaking Association.

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