Everyone wants water access at Darrell Bay.
At a lively meeting on Tuesday afternoon, two groups pitched their different visions for the waterfront land to council.
In May, Woodfibre LNG asked council to consider exclusive access to the area for four years, starting in October. The company plans to build a second dock on the site to allow for the transportation of workers during the construction of its LNG plant.
On Tuesday, a second group proposed a different idea for the area.
Jeff Levine of Sea to Sky Adventure Company, Bahadur Karim of Symphony Resorts* and John Heilig proposed the area be used for a commercial “adventure tourism” ferry service.
Levine compared the ferry to the Granville Island Aquabus, and said it would take visitors from the Sea to Sky Gondola and Shannon Falls into downtown Squamish. He said the dock ideally would also remain open to allow water access for the public to launch watercraft like kayaks and paddleboards.
“This is not an anti-LNG thing whatsoever, this is just an incredible opportunity for public access and amenities for Squamish,” said Levine.
“Having true District-controlled public access, and public adjoining of the water we think is a major benefit.”
Levine said the group would also want to collaborate with Woodfibre, including having a separate entrance to allow for security screening.
Woodfibre has said they will leave their infrastructure to the public when construction is complete but insisted on Tuesday that they are too far into the planning process to easily accommodate other players.
“I think we’re absolutely open to that. The problem is timing. We’ve heard some amazing ideas, but we’re very far into the process. We’re ready to go,” said Jennifer Siddon, associate vice-president of corporate communications.
“The main thing to us is safety and security,” she said.
The company wants to bring workers to Darrell Bay on buses and then have them pass through a security screening before boarding boats to get to the other side of Howe Sound.
Siddon said applications are already before the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and WLNG is prepared to make a confidential financial offer to lease the District-controlled portion of the land.
“We don’t want this to be a competition. The reality is just we are at the stage where we need to finalize our plans,” added John MacKay, WLNG’s vice-president of legal.
While there was no formal vote on Tuesday, the discussion around the table suggested that exclusive access may not be an option council would support.
“Council’s original goal was that all groups would work on a collaborative opportunity that provided public access but met people’s needs for their business goals,” said Mayor Patricia Heintzman. “I’m generalizing, but that’s what I’m hearing around the table, that exclusive use is not necessarily something we would support at this point.”
Heintzman said the application process began two years ago when the District put out a call for interest in the site.
Coun. Karen Elliott suggested the company should avoid pitting industry against tourism, and Coun. Susan Chapelle also supported collaboration between the groups.
“I’m a little bit distressed by the attitude being shown today,” said Jason Blackman-Wulff. “The reality is, exclusive use means it will not be available to our community.”
Rick Poissant, general manager of nearby Klahanie Campground, commented that he has many guests eager to access Howe Sound and was “concerned that we’re losing an opportunity to put the sea into Sea to Sky.”
Coun. Ted Prior said that “four years is not a long time” suggesting that the tourism group could wait until WLNG is finished to put their plans into action.
Council will need to formally vote to approve any decisions made for the land.
*Please note, this story has been corrected since it was first posted. The first version had a misspelling of Symphony Resorts.