Ramp closed again

The free public boat launch, one of just two in the community, is once again littered with debris and inaccessible

The Ken Forde Boat Ramp is closed to boaters again after a brief opening last month.

The free public boat launch, one of just two in the community, is once again littered with debris and inaccessible.

The city first cleared Ken Forde in late June after receiving approval from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to remove the approximately 300 cubic metres of gravel that clogged the boat ramp. The material was transferred to beach front just north of Rotary Park to replenish the eroded shore and Sea Walk.

The ramp, located across the street from Rona, then reopened to boaters the first week of July but was only operational for about three weeks.

“Since that time, gravel that had accumulated on the rip-rap breakwater on the south side of the launch has been washed over the breakwater and into the launch,” said Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture. “We estimate there is approximately 50 to 75 cubic metres of material, a fraction of what was in the launch in June, but enough to make the launch unusable.”

Now the city has to begin the application process all over again, as Fisheries regulations stipulate the city cannot remove debris without approval nor can it stockpile gravel while waiting to re-distribute the material to another site. A timeline for how long the city may have to wait to receive the green light for removal is unknown. The previous application, to relocate gravel to the Rotary Beach area, was the city’s last request to go through the Campbell River Department of Fisheries office before application processing was centralized in Nanaimo.

“This change in process makes it impossible to predict the application approval process timeline,” Milnthorp said. “I am confident that the Nanaimo office will do their best to process our application as fast as possible.”

As much of a nuisance the gravel is to boaters, the material is, at the same time, an asset.

“It’s actually precious material that – if it wasn’t getting hung up at the boat ramps – would continue up the foreshore and nourish the beaches that are starved,” Milnthorp said before Ken Forde was cleared the first time. “In some ways, and boaters would not agree with me on this, the material clogging the boat ramps is a blessing because it’s exactly the material we need to re-nourish the foreshore.”

The city’s long-term solution for foreshore protection is to continue to use the material that clogs the ramps to nourish starved city beaches, Milnthorp said.

The city and Department of Fisheries and Oceans are working to develop a pre-approved schedule for moving material at both the Ken Forde and Big Rock boat ramps each spring to pre-determined locations in need of restoration. That agreement would hopefully allow the city to have the boat ramps cleared out by the start of summer.

“We appreciate the community’s patience while we work to get this plan in place,” Milnthorp said. “Boat ramp maintenance must meet acceptable foreshore habitat management regulations, and the long-term plans we are developing will help us get the boat ramps open earlier in years to come.”

The city’s other free public launch, Big Rock Boat Ramp, and a boat launch at Discovery Harbour ($10 fee per use) both remain open.