Boaters had difficulty launching their boats at Big Rock Boat Launch during last Friday’s low tide. Here a boat is marooned inside the breakwater because the outlet channel is too shallow. Meanwhile

Boat launch improvements can’t come soon enough for some

The low tides last weekend made getting boats in and out of Discovery Passage even more difficult than usual for boaters trying to enjoy one of the first nice weekends of spring.

This prompted yet another call from boaters for the state of the boat launches – specifically Big Rock Boat Launch – to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Allison Galloway and her husband David say they launched from the Big Rock ramp about 9:30 a.m. last Friday morning (April 8) to go prawning, and were coming back a few hours later in an attempt to beat low tide – which was expected about 12:30 p.m. Unfortunately for the Galloways, the tide was already too low to risk bringing the trailer down the ramp.

“The gravel on the ramp was like a foot or two deep,” Galloway says. “We might have been able to get the trailer down into there, but even if we did, once the extra weight from the boat was on it, we’d have been stuck and would’ve needed a tow truck to come get us out.”

Their boat ended up bottoming out while the tide went out underneath them. Once it had come back in and they were afloat again, they headed for the ramp at Discovery Harbour Marina, where they paid their $10 to get out of the water.

“We like to tout that we’re this amazing fishing destination,” Galloway says, “and the fact of the matter is that we just don’t have the amenities to back that up. It’s ridiculous that it’s April and we can’t get in and out of the water properly at one of the major ramps.”

Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of Parks, Recreation and Culture, says the ramp regularly gets filled up with gravel and sediment, and they clear it out following a plan that was developed with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and put in place in 2011 to redistribute this material to other areas of the waterfront.

This work is being done now, Milnthorp says.

“This year there was an unusual volume of material – sediment and gravel – and it was deposited much earlier than usual,” Milnthorp says, adding that much of the material was removed from the ramp section itself on Tuesday of this week, “but we need an especially low tide to get the rest of it and do it thoroughly,” so they will be getting back out to finish the job at their first opportunity.

The other public, free boat launch – Ken Forde Park in Willow Point – should also be cleaned up and ready for boats on or around May 1, Milnthorp says, depending on the weather and tides.

The material removed during this process is used to naturally replenish the shore in the areas it would naturally wash up were the boat launches not in the way.

The public boat launch situation – specifically, the upgrading of the Big Rock Boat Launch – has been a source of contention for years.

Council has been searching for funding to help with the cost of fixing the situation there, to no avail.

The city received nine bids in 2012 from companies who wanted to work on the project, but none came in under the budget that had been set at the time.

Additional funding has been sought as recently as last summer, when the city applied for funding through the Canada 150 fund to try and get a piece of the $150-million available for community infrastructure projects, but that funding wasn’t approved, either.

So where are we now on that upgrade?

“The design for the upgrade (at Big Rock Boat Launch) is what’s called shovel-ready,” Milnthorp says, “and we are constantly scanning for grants – both federally and provincially – which might be applicable for its construction, but it’s going to cost about $1 million, so we really need some form of federal or provincial funding to make it happen.”

Milnthorp says the city has put aside $500,000 for its portion of the expected cost of the project, “and as soon as the other half of the necessary funding is available, it’s a go.”

That upgrade, Milnthorp says, will consist of a widening of the ramp so more than one boat can be loaded at once, a fish cleaning station, as well as parking lot paving and other landscaping needs around the launch.