Crews who arrived on Denman Island Monday morning to begin work cutting trees to expand the ferry terminal were met by protesters.
Deborah McCall is a resident of the island who showed up to protest and says she would like BC Ferries to engage with meaningful consultation with the residents before it cuts down the trees.
“We want BC Ferries to stop the expansion there’s over 140 trees that have been slated to come down,” McCall told CHEK News in an interview. “We’ve offered lots of other solutions and we want dialogue with BC Ferries, so we’re not going to let the work continue until we have that dialogue with BC Ferries.”
BC Ferries is looking to add a holding lane along East Road as during summer traffic peaks, the road can back up with vehicles waiting to board a ferry for more than a kilometre. BC Ferries tells CHEK News there are around 100 trees that will need to be removed in order for the terminal to be expanded.
McCall says the ferry company did consultation in 2017, but residents weren’t aware it was happening.
In that round of consultation, BC Ferries’ website says it conducted an online survey, which received 58 responses, and held two engagement sessions. In one which was held on Hornby Island, around 35 people attended, while the other held on Denman Island had around 20 attendees. The 2016 Census shows Denman Island has a population of 1,165.
Other options the group has presented to BC Ferries includes holding traffic at Buckley Bay, or implementing a reservation system, McCall says.
C Urquhart, another protester, says the ferry company is looking to put the Quinitsa on the Denman Island to Hornby Island route. The Quinitsa has a car capacity of 44, compared to 21 of the Kahloke which currently services the route.
“It would be wise to wait until we have at least one season with the Quinitsa and see how that does impact the traffic down here,” Urquhart said. “Does that help? Does that make a difference? Maybe we don’t need a ferry terminal expansion if that happens.”
People on Denman Island and Hornby Island have been petitioning BC Ferries for a larger ferry between the two islands.
RCMP were called to Denman Island and spent time speaking with both the protesters and the work crews.
Story continues below photo
Cpl Aaron Chamberlin with the Comox Valley RCMP says the role RCMP played was to determine where both sides stood.
“The RCMP were called to a complaint of protest involving the removal of trees at the ferry terminal,” Chamberlin told CHEK News. “And it was our job just to come and speak to all the stakeholders who are involved in that situation and determine where they stood with the issues they had and that’s what we’ve done this morning.”
He says now BC Ferries and the protesters will need to work together to come to a solution.
At the end of the day, the work crews packed up and headed out without completing work.
BC Ferries tells CHEK News the protests stopped the work on the ferry terminal from proceeding, and that the project was supposed to start earlier but was delayed by the pandemic.
“The community has also asked for bigger vessels with more vehicle capacity on its route. Without a larger vehicle holding compound, current safety risks are heightened as well as traffic backups on the two lane, residential, road that leads to the Denman East terminal,” BC Ferries said in a statement.
“It’s unfortunate that the community is unable to reach consensus on this project and that one group’s views is creating further delays. 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.”
-With files from CHEK’s Kendall Hanson
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated both public engagement sessions were held on Denman Island. It has now been updated to reflect that one was held on Denman, the other on Hornby Island.