The only ferry linking remote communities in the Alberni Inlet is set to take its last voyage at the end of the month.
The owner of Lady Rose Marine Services has announced that Aug. 31 wlill be it’s last sailing, marking an end to a company that has been in business since 1937.
The ferry service — which sails the west coast of Vancouver Island delivering services, tourists and goods — is a victim of lost business due to the pandemic, its owners said in a Facebook post Monday.
But some community leaders say the service is too valuable to the region to let go.
“The lady rose has been an absolute staple in our community. It’s tough,” said Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions. “I think it’s personal for a lot of people who are losing this service. From a community standpoint, it’s a huge hit for tourism.”
The ferry sails to remote Barkley Sound communities, including the Huu-ay-aht village of Anacla, three times a week. After Sept. 1, the only options will be via floatplane or Bamfield Road — the same road where two University of Victoria students died in 2018 when their bus rolled off it.
The province committed $25 million to improvements, but the work is expected to take three years.
“Any infrastructure that is related to transportation is critical, whether it’s by land, by air, by water. All of them are critical. and if we see one go away, it definately puts more pressure on the other ones to be there to support Huu-ay-aht,” said Trevor Cootes of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation.
But there are talks now underway to keep some kind of service going.
“I am very, very committed and will be taking this back to the different ministries so we can be part of finding a solution to keep people connected to the goods and services that they rely on,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs Josie Osborne.
“As early as next week, there’ll be a meeting to pull together people.Mmy office will be part of that connecting people with the right ministry, and looking for solutions.”
Cootes said it’s just another casualty of the pandemic, but he hopes better things can come out of the company’s closure.
“This is another example of just the effects that we see as a result of the pandemic, and on our local economy, and how important it is for us to have a strong economic recovery plan in place for us to come out of this so we have a great future ahead of us.”