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Momentum swells for a new Squamish boat launch

Committee, petition and Facebook group form; District says it is engaged on the issue.

Squamish's Trevor Chelswick has been flagging the need for a new public boat launch in Squamish for decades.

But these days, he feels like there just might be the momentum needed to get it built.

"I have written it down on all sorts of community action strategy sessions that I attended in the last 25 years," he said. 

 "I have a water access cabin on Howe Sound, and I have been on the water for 25 years here... Squamish seems to be designed with its back to the water, and I really want to just turn around and recognize that we are an oceanside community and to enjoy the benefits of that." 

Of course, he isn't the only one. Former Squamish resident Gord Gunner lobbied fervently for a new launch for years, before he moved to Vancouver Island in 2020, with no launch on the horizon. 

But, recently, an eight-member boat launch committee of passionate boaters, including Chelswick, has been formed to tackle the issue. 

There's also a Squamish Needs a Boat Ramp Facebook page and a petition on called Squamish Community Needs A Better Boat Launch that has close to 300 signatures as of Nov.10. 

There are at least 1,000 boaters who use the current ramp and many businesses that depend on it, Chelswick said.

Currently, the public uses the ramp thanks to the generosity of the landowner; therefore, future use is not to be taken for granted, Chelswick noted. 

"We don't actually have any kind of tenure on it." 

With the growth of Squamish and diminishing land available, Chelswick worries if a boat launch isn't established soon, it may be too late. 

"We are getting to the point of no return," he said. "We are running out of opportunities. I really feel like this is our last opportunity to make something happen for what should be an oceanfront town." 

What is wrong with the current boat launch, exactly? 

Doug Lowe and his wife recently moved to Squamish from Ontario for our outdoor lifestyle, but as boaters, they quickly found it hard to access the ocean via the boat launch. 

They found it "unsafe and inefficient."

"I was somewhat puzzled as to why an oceanfront town like Squamish has a boat launch that falls short of what I would consider adequate,” he said. 

A boat launch should be usable from the highest of tides to the lowest of tides, and, in Squamish, that isn't the case, Lowe said. 

"The boat launch in Squamish needs to be relocated to an area that provides safe and convenient access with multiple launch ramps, floating docks and ample parking," he added.

It was Lowe who started the petition. 

"I have seen boat ramps far superior across Canada with much smaller populations than Squamish," he told The Chief.

He pointed to Terrace Bay, in Ontario. 

"It has a beautiful boat launch area and it has a total population of 1,600," he said, adding the City of Dryden, also in Ontario, has a great boat launch and a population of 7, 700. 

Lowe, who has taken up kiteboarding since moving to town, said a new launch in Squamish could also allow kiters to get to and from Spit island once dismantling of the berm is complete. 

"I think it would be great for the community," he said. 

Chelswick stressed that he knows the issue of a new ramp is on the District and council's radar and the committee's goal is to help facilitate whatever is needed to get a launch established. 

"How can we be involved in the process in the best and most productive, collaborative way?" 

He said there are a few options for where a new launch could be, but he didn't want to get caught up in speculating. 

"I don't see it being on the peninsula because of parking issues," he said. "I am not going to speculate where else it could go in a public forum because that might disrupt other negotiations." 

The next step for the committee is to approach the District and consultants looking at the Marine Strategy to get more information, and, hopefully, a seat at the table. 

"We are a pretty diverse group and we would like to offer our skillset to the District, because we know there is a limited budget on everything so if we can provide our skills for free, then that will help with the cost and save everybody some money." 

What does the District say?

District staff told The Chief the municipality has heard feedback on the need for a boat launch in Squamish throughout the Marine Action Strategy and Marine Zoning public engagement processes, and through direct feedback from residents.

“The District is beginning work to develop a comprehensive map of marine access points and part of this work includes determining the needs, issues and options for a public boat launch facility,” said Rachel Boguski, a spokesperson for the District. 

A launch-specific parking area, as well as loading and in-water infrastructure, integrated land and marine use, funding, transportation and flood protection plans, are all requirements of any permanent boat launch that will be considered as part of this process, she added. 

Potential locations and ongoing management are still to be determined, she said. 

Upcoming public engagement will include a community survey to gather feedback related to boat launch use, user needs and other long-term considerations. Boguski said residents can stay tuned to Let’s Talk Squamish for the launch of this project in the coming weeks.