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Squamish is in dire need of a new boat launch, says boater

Current ramp is on private land and is in need of repair
Gord Gunner at Darrell Bay, where he thinks a public boat launch should be.

Boater Gord Gunner has been calling for a new boat launch for more than a year to no avail, but his enthusiasm isn’t losing any steam. 

“We use what we have got and it is inadequate for a growing community,” Gunner told The Chief.

Gunner’s argument for a new boat launch is that the current one at the Squamish Yacht Club is on private land, is old and in much need of repair. 

The small boat launch downtown was built in 1963 through an arrangement between the town and the private landowner, using a winter works grant, according to Eric Andersen, local historian and spokesperson for the Squamish and District Forestry Association.

 The downtown boat launch also can’t be used at the highest of high tides because it doesn’t have the proper slope, Gunner says. At the lowest of tides, it can’t be used either because the ramp drops off.

“It is not up to the standards of what a boat launch should be. And it could be taken away from us at any time,” Gunner said in a letter to council last year. 

He has been to developing countries that have quality boat launches so he questions why a municipality on the water like Squamish doesn’t have one. 

What he wants is a boat launch that can be used year-round and is functional at both the lowest and highest tides; ideally, it would have a two-lane ramp to allow for easier and quicker drop-off and pickup of all size of boats.

Andersen says a new small boat ramp and boater parking solution is just one of a long list of facility needs and improvements needed for Squamish’s harbour.

 “Other puzzles to solve include where to locate [Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue], a fuel station, ferry and small cruise ship docking, new barge facilities and tie-ups, marine vessel repair, maintenance and perhaps manufacturing – and how to pay for maintaining the navigation channel,” he said. 

 There are various demands being made on the Blind Channel and Darrell Bay by all sectors, and they will require collaborative solutions, he said, adding a marine strategy that would have addressed the launch and other issues is long overdue.

 “The forest industry and Squamish Terminals have been calling for a District Marine Strategy for nearly 10 years. There is a Marine Action Strategy underway now,” he said. 

A spokesperson for the District of Squamish said that the marine strategy will include consideration of an appropriate location for a boat launch. 

“It’s a shame a Marine Strategy wasn’t completed earlier, before the Oceanfront and Waterfront Landing plans,” said Andersen. 

Parking could be an obstacle to creating a launch as it requires considerable room for boaters and their trailers, the District spokesperson said. 

 A new boat launch would be a benefit for more than just local boaters as it would promote tourism, Gunner maintains.

“If we had a better boat launch, we could promote what I call the Howe Sound triangle… going from Squamish to Gibsons, over to Bowen Island, over to Horseshoe Bay, making their way up,” he said. 

An ideal location for the new launch would be at Darrell Bay, Gunner argues. 

The spot is deep enough and it is protected from the wind, for the most part, he said. 

He has been in contact with the landowner Bahadur Karim who is interested in hearing about the boat ramp project, but no plans are set, Gunner said. 

Gunner’s proposal was discussed at a council meeting in May. 

Darrell Bay may be an option for a launch, but it requires collaboration with the provincial government as it involves Crown land, according to the District. 

Two boat launches are planned for the oceanfront park at Newport Beach, according to the Oceanfront Sub Area Plan. One is to be incorporated into a sailing centre on the east side of the park and a second launch is contemplated for larger sail and power boats. 

Gunner said no one knows how long it will take to get the launches at the oceanfront developed and he would like to see one complete before the next 2018 boating season. 

Gunner has sent emails to the mayor and council, but nothing has come of it other than preliminary discussions, he said, adding he is extremely frustrated with the inaction. 

Boater John Buchanan estimates it would cost about $50,000 to build a “bare bones” boat launch taking into account specialty concrete, cost of equipment and environmental monitoring. 

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