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Boat ramps don’t float fisherman’s boat

A boater makes use of the Big Rock Boat Ramp which will is slated for a facelift. - Kristen Douglas/Mirror file photo
A boater makes use of the Big Rock Boat Ramp which will is slated for a facelift.
— image credit: Kristen Douglas/Mirror file photo

Campbell River is missing the boat when it comes to community boat launches, according to a director from the Campbell River Salmon Foundation.

For a community that calls itself the Salmon Capital of the World, Mike Gage can’t believe the lack of proper boat ramps.

“I have to wonder why we do not have better facilities for launching boats when we have such a strong fishery,” said Gage, a volunteer director with the Salmon Foundation and an avid fisherman. “The ramp at the big rock area is the closest to the current fishing area. This ramp is totally inadequate for the amount (of boats).”

Gage points out that the ramp is restricted to one boat at a time and does not have a wharf for people to use while waiting to reload or to hang on to their boat after launching.

There is also not a lot of parking and on a good day, vehicles are forced to park along the side of Highway 19A just to use the boat ramp.

Gage said the city’s other free community boat ramp, the Ken Forde launch, is no better.

“Ken Forde ramp at Willow Creek is only adequate at a five foot plus tide and high risk for anything larger than small 14 foot boats,” Gage said. “The pump station installed by the wisdom of the city of Campbell River makes this ramp a challenge to those who have trouble backing up.”

Gage said it’s a shame that city council has not done more to improve the situation.

“If our current city council could only understand the strength of Campbell River’s position in the world of sports fishing and the complete lack of facilities to launch boats,” Gage said.

Mayor Walter Jakeway said he does understand and agrees with Gage that there is a problem.

“As Salmon Capital of the World, Campbell River is drastically short of boat ramps after a previous council unceremoniously removed a good boat ramp on Tyee Spit around 2007,” Jakeway said. “Even before that huge blunder, there was already a shortage of launch capacity.”

The city is, however, in the midst of planning an upgrade to the Big Rock boat launch. The project involves replacing the ramp to extend its length, improving the breakwater, adding a seasonal float or jetty for boaters to tie up to while parking their vehicles, accessible washrooms, and picnic tables.

As of last summer, there are no plans to expand the parking area.

Jakeway said he thinks city staff have missed the mark.

“What is now proposed for the Big Rock boat ramp is also drastically the wrong solution,” Jakeway said. “There were public sessions held in 2012/13 by city staff but deafness prevailed and a pretty boat ramp design evolved, instead of a useful boat ramp design.

“Campbell River needs a large full service – lots of parking and multiple wash wands – all tide, all weather, boat ramp as soon as possible,” Jakeway added. “If given a chance, it will happen.”

Jakeway said Campbell River need not look far to see successful boat launches in action.

“Have a look at Port Alberni and Nanaimo – they have it right.”

Gage agrees.

“Port Alberni has at least four large ramps in strategic locations for its local anglers and visitors – complete with good parking – in spite of having a much smaller run of salmon than we do here at Campbell River,” Gage said.

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