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Friday, December 1, 2023

Engage BC Ferries community engagement division with letters – Sharon Small

 “Carrie Mcintosh of BCF’s community engagement division is asking for feedback on the “success” of the improved summer service. Send feedback to engagement@bcf.com and to boost credibility, you could add your expertise/group affiliation in the conclusion, as I  did. Feel free to cut and paste sections from my letter.”

 Dear Carrie,

I speak for many Denman residents in thanking BCF for responding to our necessity for better ferry service this summer. Service has improved. Of course, we maintain that the cable ferry needs to be replaced, However, you and Commissioner Hage have made it clear that there will be no replacement in the near term.

Regrettably, the service improvement during the week does not mitigate Denman’s main concern (see our BCF Community page) – the safety and quality of life issues caused by tens of thousands of Hornby tourist and tourist related vehicles racing back and forth between terminals.  On weekends and when there are service interruptions, traffic is often backed up at the two terminals and there continues to be competition for limited deck space at Buckley Bay.

We urge BCF to replace the Baynes Sound Connector in the next term and conduct a feasibility study for a direct ferry to Hornby Island. Given the dire effect of Hornby Island’s under regulated tourist policy and the Hornby Economic Enhancement group’s resolve to increase tourist numbers, a direct ferry to Hornby is the only option for Denman. Because of the threat of forest Hires in the interior of BC, more and more tourists will choose Vancouver Island destinations in the coming years. BCF needs to be prepared for this increase in traffic.

In the short term, the back-up of weekend traffic at both Denman terminals must be mitigated. This traffic can be held on Hornby and at Buckley Bay, as discussed at the May 26 roundtable meeting. We have seen some improvement in traffic flow but it is not consistent. On weekends, this traffic frequently blocks major intersections, creating peril for drivers, walkers, cyclists, and horseback riders, our environment and service vehicles. Despite a fine of over $500 for tossing cigarettes butts, many backed up folks toss theirs, and many run engines for air conditioning and charging devices while they wait. This creates great fear amongst Denman islanders.

See my complaint to information@bcf.com that described what I witnessed for three hours on a Sunday at the Denman- Northwest intersection. Hornby traffic was backed up beyond the Guest House and frequently vehicles and massive RVs gridlocked the intersection. Also, when traffic was flowing, drivers exceeded the 40 mph speed limit. At the very least, there needs to be flaggers directing backed up traffic off of Denman Road. As one of our FAC members commented on a Fb site, we now have a backed-up traffic problem creating peril at both Denman terminals.

The effects of this tourist traffic on safety and quality of life on Denman dominated the roundtable meeting and was listed as the main concern of the 170 Denman residents who attended. Our collective message was that the traffic issue is creating a crisis for Denman residents who filled the hall to share their experiences and strong feelings of anguish, frustration, anger, and despair. Once the full summary of the round table meeting, with verbatim comments is posted, you have all the evidence needed to conclude that Denman is suffering.

Denman continues to compete not only for road access, but limited ferry deck space due to an unsustainable number of tourist vehicles often taking up to 3 and 4 vehicle spaces. Once I overheard ferry staff complain that one tourist rig was 50 feet long. The length of tourist vehicles is not addressed in the 19,000 vehicles travelling one way in two months statistic provided by BCF in a 2022 report. As an essential service for residents, can’t BCF consider limiting tourist RV length given the competition for deck space and terminal road access?

I strongly suggest also that Hornby’s assured first come/first served loading lane at Buckley Bay be reconsidered. It should be reserved without cost for Hornby and Denman essential travellers such as MDs and other physical and mental health practitioners, off island workers, full-time residents with important appointments off island, parents with children going to school and engaged in activities off island, etc. One BCF manager at the roundtable proposed a free reservation service for full time residents to replace the current first policy.

I strongly urge BC Ferries set up a public meeting on Denman to address the above problems that continue to create an enormous strain on Denman and on BCF’s heroic ferry staff. While Hornby wants more traffic, Denman desperately needs a lot less. Our needs are opposite.

Respectfully, Sharon Small,

Retired University Professor and Denman Island Resident


Author: TIG

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