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City of Powell River committee of the whole hears request to upgrade boat launch at Gibsons Beach

Ciara Knapp and Don McLeod appeared to present a case for an improved facility
REVITALIZE RAMP: Don McLeod and Ciara Knapp appeared before City of Powell River’s committee of the whole to advocate for improvement to the boat launch at Gibsons Beach.

City of Powell River councillors received a request to help revitalize the boat launch at Gibsons Beach.

At the September 21 committee of the whole meeting, Ciara Knapp and Don McLeod appeared to make a case for an expanded and improved boat launch facility north of the city.

Knapp said McLeod, her father, asked her to help put together a proposal regarding the Gibsons Beach boat launch.

“It’s kind of in disrepair,” said Knapp. “It’s not very easy to use, especially if you don’t know how to boat. We’re looking to have city council, Tla’amin Nation and qathet Regional District work together to get this revitalized.”

Knapp said the biggest issue is the boat launch is inaccessible when there is a low tide or any wind. She said the aim is to have it usable in all weather and in lower tidal conditions.

There are several boat launches throughout the qathet region but they all have their cons, said Knapp.

“We’re just looking to make one really accessible,” said Knapp.

McLeod said the Gibsons Beach boat launch, for more than 50 years, has only provided capacity for launching at six-foot tides.

“It’s a bad ramp,” said McLeod. “To do a proper, safe boat ramp there, it would take some of the burden off of the Westview ramp. I would feel better if it was a tri-government policy.”

Campbell River example

McLeod pointed to a project in Campbell River that was just completed, which cost $2.1 million. He said he’d like to get a committee formed to look into the prospect of revitalizing the Gibsons Beach launch.

Councillor George Doubt said he lives in Wildwood and has been to Gibsons Beach and watched people fighting with launching boats there and having all sorts of problems.

“I understand the need,” said Doubt. “The Wildwood ratepayers have had this on their agenda for a considerable amount of time.

“Just so you know, the parks and recreation future plan laid out improving the Gibsons Beach boat launch as one of the future priorities. It’s in the plans.”

Doubt said Tla’amin has expressed an interest in discussing the future of that park area and the boat launch.

“I think the Tla’amin Nation would like to see it improved, too,” said Doubt. “The three local governments working together is a really good idea. It definitely needs improvement and it’s a good asset to have another boat launch in the ocean.”

McLeod said he will be approaching both the regional district and Tla’amin as well with regard to the boat launch.

Mayor Dave Formosa said when the city and Tla’amin divided the old mill land assets, the city took the portion near the mill and Tla’amin took property in the Gibsons Beach area. He said initially, Tla’amin stated it did not want the boat ramp or the beach, but subsequently, expressed an interest in the property at Gibsons Beach. Formosa said the prospective land ownership needs to be figured out.

Chris Jackson, acting chief administrative officer, said the land, currently, is city-owned, as well as the access from the highway to the beach.

“It’s not my understanding that there are any active discussions about transferring it,” said Jackson.

Councillor Cindy Elliott said she thinks improving the facility is a wonderful idea. She asked if there had been any discussions with the federal government. She said there have been instances where search and rescue has tried to get boats in the water at low tide and couldn’t.

“That seems to be an untenable situation and perhaps might elevate our priority when applying for funding from government sources,” said Elliott.

Process will be long term, says councillor

Committee chair councillor Jim Palm said the issue has been a longstanding item that has come forward a number of times. Palm said the logistics at the site would mean considerable funding would be required to make significant improvements to the ramp.

“It’s going to be a long-term process,” said Palm. “There’s a great deal of money involved. We could certainly help with starting the process and do some research about the foreshore and at least get it ready for future development.”

McLeod said a study will need to be done. He said the Campbell River project has already gone through a lot of the processes and he thought the city there could help walk the Powell River representatives through the process.

McLeod said he would volunteer to work with a committee if one was formed.

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said it sounds like a good topic for the C3 meeting, where representatives from the city, regional district and Tla’amin meet to discuss common issues.

“If we can work in the background and find out what has transpired, it's important, but the relevant part is if we are all willing to work together,” said Hathaway.

Doubt asked staff for a report on the ownership of the Gibsons Beach park, the boat launch and the road access.

“After we get that we can have a discussion about the future of the property with the C3 from a place of knowing who owns what,” said Doubt.

Council gave unanimous consent for staff to report on the salient issues regarding Gibsons Beach.