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I have to say that rip rap is crap

Out on a Limb with Alistair Taylor
Alistair Taylor

I was a little dismayed when I saw the discussion around renovating Robert Ostler Park’s shoreline.

I was particularly worried that the argument that replacing the rip rap is the best option was making sense. The original rip rap was installed 50-60 years ago and that its predicted lifespan was in fact 50-60 years. So, it did its job and now it’s time to replace it and it will last 50-60 years. It was a good point.

But I’m glad Mayor Andy Adams asserted that council already decided it was going to go with a “soft shore” option last year and that the discussion at Monday’s meeting shouldn’t be about whether they go ahead with the soft shore but how they would go ahead with it.

Rip rap is crap. Okay, can I put it any clearer? It’s ugly and it’s dangerous and representative of Donald Trump-like thinking – let’s put up a wall to keep the sea out. It’s outdated and it’s uncreative.

We can do better and the soft shore concept, which has already proven itself effective on other beaches along Campbell River’s extensive waterfront, is better. As Kristen Douglas wrote on page 5 the city has used the engineered beach approach to try and mitigate storm damage on the shore near Rockland Road and the Island Highway and at Rotary, Dick Murphy and Ellis parks.

Soft shore or engineered beaches embody the principle that wave energy from storms and just regular conditions is dissipated when it rolls up a sloping beach. The erosion effect of the waves is diminished. It replicates natural beaches. As opposed to man-made techniques reminiscent of the early to mid-20th century where they built walls to keep the sea out - with rip rap. What happens there is waves slam against the rip rap and start, slowly but surely, washing away the sand and gravel in and behind the rip rap, especially in large storms where the waves get behind the rip rap.

It works, for a while. Now it has to be repaired and what’s the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result)?

But as we joked (sarcastically, of course) in our office, we much prefer a rip rap waterfront so that we can take our life in our hands when we stumble all over it to get a picture of waterfront events. And,  yes, we love the danger we put our camera equipment in as we desperately try to regain our balance and prevent our cameras from being dropped and smashed on the rip rap. And Robert Ostler Park is only a place where hundreds of children play during community events what could possibly go wrong with them clambering all over the rocks with abrasive surfaces, sharp edges and broken glass in the holes in between?

And speaking of that glass, one councillor suggested a soft shore will only encourage drinking on the foreshore from the, how do you say, unsavoury elements of society. Don’t they already do that on the rip rap?


Who would want our showcase  park in the centre of town – where everybody gathers, particularly tourists – to look natural, eh? And with regards to cost, keep in mind that three quarters of the $1.2 million cost is to replace underground storm sewers which have to be replaced anyway. The rest of the money goes to engineering the beach.  So, I’m looking forward to a beach engineered to look

natural – yes, I do see the irony in that.



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