Boaters had difficulty using the Big Rock Boat Ramp during low tides last spring. Pictured is a boat marooned inside the breakwater because the outlet channel was too shallow. Meanwhile

City launches plan to improve the Big Rock Boat Ramp

A new ramp, as well as other improvements, could be in place at Big Rock Boat Ramp by next season if all goes according to plan.

Council, at its Monday meeting, approved moving ahead on the boat launch project in 2017 but city staff cautioned there’s no guarantee the works can be completed next year.

Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said the ability to begin construction in 2017 on a new ramp and other in-water works centres around renegotiation of the water lease with the federal government as well as other permit approvals.

“There are a number of permitting approvals for expansion of the groin that need to take place before construction can get underway and the city has no control over that,” Milnthorp said. “If we can’t get those approvals by May, staff would recommend moving the upgrades to 2018.”

Mayor Andy Adams questioned whether the city, if it does not secure the necessary permits in time, could move the surface portion of the project – which includes washrooms, a fish cleaning station and parking lot upgrades – to 2017 and do phase one, the in-water works, in 2018 instead. Milnthorp said he would address that point in a future report to council, which will break down the two phases of construction.

Council has elected to split the $1.1 million project up. Phase one, consisting of all in-water works such as replacing the ramp (including pedestrian access and boat mooring capability to improve boat launching), dredging of the basin and relocating and enlarging the two protective rock “groin” structures comes with a price tag of $653,336. Phase two includes all upland works such as upgrades to the parking lot, lighting, washrooms and a fish cleaning station and is estimated to cost $446,664.

Council, at Monday’s meeting, approved a plan that would see the city fund the entire project out of its own budget.

That’s because, as Coun. Charlie Cornfield said Monday, the city is no longer relying on grants that keep being denied.

“We have waited and waited for years on grants that we haven’t received,” Cornfield said.

Council has already budgeted $500,000 of city money – $250,000 from the Capital Lending Reserve and $250,000 from the Parks Capital Reserve – towards the project for 2016. The city was hoping a $500,000 Canada 150 grant application would be successful but Milnthorp said city staff have yet to hear back.

He suggested the city use its own money to make up the remainder for 2017. A potential source, according to Milnthorp, could be $599,000 that may be released from the Ostler Park project which city staff is recommending be temporarily put on hold until long-term downtown flooding solutions can be found.

Milnthorp said ideally the boat launch upgrades could be complete prior to June of 2017 when peak season begins and tides are at their lowest.

“Initiating completion of phase one in 2017 will provide the upgrades necessary to significantly improve the functionality of the site,” Milnthorp wrote in a report to council. “Upgrading and enlargement of the rock groins will provide protection for the basin and should reduce the need for maintenance of the basin.

“Phase one will include construction of a new concrete boat ramp including piers for boaters to secure their boat while parking or retrieving their trailer.”

Delaying phase two, the above ground works, until 2018, gives council the opportunity to integrate that work into future Highway 19A upgrades.