The Ecclestone dock proposal is back before council. To their credit, the proponents have addressed concerns regarding historical encroachments on the public right-of-way and the heartfelt affection of neighbours for Ecclestone beach. For our municipal council, which has little appetite for sorting out historical encroachments, the proposal provides an easy “out.”
But it is not this dock that is problematic but rather most docks. The Deep Cove, North Vancouver waterfront is illustrative of the sad result when each property has its own dock thereby transforming a beautiful coast into an impenetrable barrier of docks. At the March 8 council meeting, Bowen’s Parks, Trails, and Greenways Advisory Committee recommended that Council take action to protect Bowen’s coastal areas. Council members were reluctant to accept the recommendation or acknowledge that we too are at risk for losing our undisturbed coastlines. I believe that it is our privilege to live in such an environment, so close to a major urban centre, and it is our responsibility to protect it.
When I first lived in Howe Sound in the 1970s, there were no whales or dolphins here. Britannia copper mine, Port Mellon mill and Woodfibre pulp and paper were pouring industrial waste into the fjord, devastating fish and mammal populations. Competing interests continue today between economic and public trust – pending BURNCO gravel mine at McNab Creek and Woodfibre LNG stand in contrast to the UNESCO Biosphere application. We who share the waterfront can be the host or the demise of the marine food web that connects zooplankton, eelgrass and kelp to a host of incubators and predators, salmon, sided dolphins, orcas, sealions and porpoises.
Neither our province nor the municipality have a conservation plan for our fragile coastlines. The proponents will likely get their dock permit but that doesn’t mean success: what the applicants’ letter refers to as a “low grade” beach may be vulnerable intertidal spawning grounds for surf smelt and sand lance, both important to the diet of endangered species of fish and mammals. Howe Sound is healing today due to determined citizens, scientists, recreational and government agencies who continue to work toward recovery. A new vision of Átl’ḵa7tsem salutes the respectful and sustainable theory of resource use by First Nations. Our marine ecosystem, still critically at-risk, is only protected if each of us takes personal responsibility to make conservation-minded choices and hold public officials – and each other – accountable.