Sidney extends the life of Beacon Wharf – for now

Sidney extends the life of Beacon Wharf – for now

For over 100 years, Beacon Wharf, in its various forms, has been an iconic landmark along the Sidney shoreline. The original, known as Government Dock, because it was owned and maintained by the federal Dominion Public Works Department, was purpose-built in 1899 for the Royal steamship Iroquois.

In the 1930s, all ferry traffic along the North Saanich peninsula and neighboring islands was directed to the Sidney dock after a storm destroyed the Anacortes launch. Its present manifestation was built circa 1960 and has since become a favourite spot for residents and tourists alike.

Because of its picturesque popularity and nostalgic feel, it’s not been easy for the city to figure out when to let it go and what should replace the wharf when it no longer has the structural integrity to be safe for public use. And even time on that, is running out.

SEE PREVIOUS: ‘Heart of Sidney’: Residents fight to save aging Beacon Wharf

The perennial issue, since its earliest days, has been the deterioration of wooden pilings that hold it up in sea conditions that don’t favour their longevity.

The Town of Sidney took ownership of Beacon Wharf in 2006, after it was divested by the Federal Government. But in recent years, and because of its advancing age, the municipality has been exploring options for the site. In 2020, Council established the Beacon Wharf Select Committee to review ideas for either replacing or not replacing it.

In 2021, the municipality invited the public to participate in a survey, but what the public wanted for the space and when, but opinion had to give way to engineering science. Because of its advancing age, the wharf was subject to inspections in 2010, 2012 and 2018 and to significant and costly repairs over the years.

A wooden structure set in seawater and subject to the lashings that come with its location along the coast, can only defy the odds for so long. In 2019, it was determined, through an invitation to tender, that it needed significant repairs to damaged piles, railings, and decking. Because of sea level rise and significant wave activity, Herold Engineering concluded, in its project manual submitted for that same tender, that rebuilding the wharf as-is was not a feasible option.

Finally, based on a condition assessment carried out this summer by engineering firm McElhanney, Sidney City council opted, on Oct 23, to extend existing commercial leases on Beacon Wharf until the end of 2026 with a possibility of further renewals.

And while the council vote means they’ve got some time yet in the form of a two-year extension of their commercial lease, the writing is on the wall for the iconic Satellite Fish Market and The Pier Bistro, the only remaining structures on the dock.

After hearing from the engineer’s report, which determined that the pilings underneath them were safe for now, some council members voiced concerns about those.

Coun. Scott Garnett raised public safety concerns about the structural integrity of the wharf’s fender piles, the timbers that are driven into the water and act as bumpers to protect the wharf from the impacts of berthing vessels.

“When I, not being an engineer myself, look at the photographs of them and showing the kind of deteriorated condition of them, are there any concerns that not repairing them might cause any damage or any structural integrity issues for other parts of the wharf?”

A fair question, considering their appearance.

In response to his concern, city staff Jenn Clary reiterated what the engineers had stated in their report that “because the fender piles are no longer used for vessel berthing, it was McElhanney’s recommendation that they do not require repair at this time.”

“There’s no reason, she said “to believe they’re unsafe.”

The next condition assessment is scheduled for 2026, which will refine the scope of any proposed future repair work to the wharf and council will again, consider repair costs as part of a future budget process. Until then, Beacon Wharf will remain as-is.


Sidney Coles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Capital Daily

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