BC Ferries is backing away from a terminal expansion on Denman Island, for now, following a standoff between locals and work crews that lasted four days.
According to an update from the company, work at the Denman Island terminal has been unable to proceed due to an ongoing protest. At issue: a number of tree slated for removal to make way for spillover lanes, with the goal of alleviating major traffic backups at the terminal.
“It’s unfortunate that the community is unable to reach consensus on this project,” wrote BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall in a statement to CHEK News.
Work was originally planned to start on the terminal following a community survey that took place between 2017 and 2018, but when the pandemic hit those plans were put on hold.
When it started to ramp back up earlier this year, locals spoke out saying they were concerned over the number of trees that were going to be cut down to make way for the expansion.
Then on Feb. 13, crews were met with a crowd of protestors, some even blocking traffic. RCMP arrived before things came to a head and managed to negotiate with protestors to temporarily move out of the way so that a heavy equipment driver could turn his rig around and go back home.
Whatever happens with the terminal, both residents and BC Ferries agree something needs to be done about the traffic backups. During peak operating periods in the summer months, with only two lanes of residential road for overflow, cars can back up for kilometres.
The issue is what that change needs to be. While BC Ferries wants to upgrade the terminal itself, residents feel as though a larger ferry is the solution. Regardless of what both sides think, one thing is clear: the project will have to wait.
“We are 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,” said Marshall. “We will communicate next steps shortly.”
While BC Ferries’ sees it as unfortunate, some protestors saw the announcement as a win.
“It’s like David and Goliath,” said one Denman Island who didn’t want to share their first name. “We’re the little guy who doesn’t want to get stepped on.”