Council taken to task over boat ramps

Long-time Campbell River resident urges council to look at other options for public boat launches

Campbell River is the Salmon Capital of the World but the city isn’t doing a very good job of supporting that claim, according to avid fisherman Mike Gage.

A long-time Campbell River resident, Gage told council at its June 22 meeting that the city needs to step up and provide proper boat launches.

“I think it’s pretty abysmal the amount of boat ramps we have around town for being the Salmon Capital of the World,” Gage said. “People are coming here to live because of the fishing, we need to support those facilities.”

The city operates two free public boat launches – Big Rock and Ken Forde – but Gage said both have their problems.

Big Rock boat ramp, which is the city’s most popular, has a lack of parking and Gage said it’s inadequate for launching at most stages of the tide.

“It requires a float to the south side of it so most people can stand, hang on to their boats after they launch them, then hang on to them again when they’re waiting for a trailer,” Gage said. “There’s nothing there (now), so they have to stand up to their knees in the water. It’s pretty crude.”

He said while Ken Forde has ample parking, the ramp is only useful during high tide.

But Gage presented council with another option.

“The one I’m excited about, and I think with a fresh mayor and a mostly fresh council here, you can use your skills to make it happen,” Gage said. “There’s a potentially wonderful ramp and it remains unused. It’s the ramp at the (former) Elk Falls mill site at the end of Orange Point Road. It could be made separate from the mill quite easily with a chain link fence.”

Gage said the ramp, which is on property now owned by Quicksilver Resources, is concrete, has a six per cent grade, and could be accessed via a 300-metre long gravel road. Gage said it was built in the late 1950s for ships going back and forth from the mill site after it was purchased by Crown Zellerbach to open a newsprint mill.

“I’m not suggesting you ever ask (Quicksilver) to purchase the property but I think it would be a nice corporate gesture if they were to give you a special use permit on this property for three or four months of the year every summer and it’d be a public boat ramp,” Gage said. “I just thought this was worth mentioning and you people and your corporate motivation could maybe twist some arms.”

Coun. Michele Babchuk said she was interested in the possibilities.

“That makes me really excited, as I’m one of the fair weather fishermen that tags along with her husband on good days and stands up to her knees trying to get into her boat at Big Rock boat launch,” Babchuk said.

Mayor Andy Adams said he could “certainly inquire” about the Quicksilver boat ramp, but said that in the meantime, the city is working on securing grant money to upgrade Big Rock boat ramp.

The $1 million project includes plans for a new ramp and six metre extension, as well as a new breakwater toe, and a possible seasonal float. Conceptual plans also include upgrades to the gravel parking area, and the addition of accessible picnic tables and washrooms. Gage said he was aware of the project but was concerned the price tag may be too high. He suggested that if the grant funding doesn’t come through, that the city scale back the project.

“If you don’t get the money approved this year for Big Rock it’d be nice if you at least put a float in there so people aren’t standing up to their knees,” Gage said. “Just a walkway is what you need.”