On March 31, after almost two years, the Province processed and issued clearance for a new private dock to be built on Ecclestone Public Beach on Mannion Bay. The decision can be found at:
Listed under the Reasons For Decision, the Province states: “A significant amount of public opposition was received against this application. All public comments were reviewed and considered in this decision.”
In fact, there were over 100 letters written to Council objecting to the dock proposal, as well as dozens of folks who took the time to appear before Council on behalf of The Friends of Ecclestone Beach.
And yet, six Council members voted to grant this variance permit in contravention to our revised land use bylaws stipulating that no more Cape Roger Curtis type docks should be built on our public beaches. In the end, Ecclestone all came down to public access across a short 30-foot path that leads to the beach at the bottom of the adjoining property, a path that had previously been generously available as a goodwill gesture to the neighbourhood for about 100 years.
However, over the past decade, the path was seized by the adjoining owners - promised and traded for increasingly bigger stakes. Sadly, it appears the path wheeling and dealing has come to an end, one with a 100-foot dock approved on this public beach.
Seven years ago, the path was used as a foil to obtain variance permits from the municipality for several illegal structures built on the road right of way leading to the beach by the owners at that time. The owners had promised to give public access to the beach on that very same 30-foot path in exchange for the neighbourhood’s cooperation in applying for their variances, but suddenly withdrew this offer at the last minute.
Inexplicably, Council granted these variances without the promised path to the beach, leaving the public empty handed. And now this poor path has been used once again to obtain another variance permit to build a huge private dock on a tiny pocket beach, wedging the community, the Council, the Province, and ultimately the beach itself between a between a dock and a hard place.
The Municipality should have just said no to the current property owner seeking a variance on the public beach because the vast majority of islanders still don’t want another dock diminishing public lands. It isn’t in our best interest in protecting Bowen’s precious shoreline and protecting Kwilákm/Mannion Bay to grant such variances, but then, ironically, there wouldn’t be public access by this particular pathway either.
Contrary to the contention in the Province’s dock approval that access will be “improved with the granting of this variance permit,” let’s just say it will be ‘legal’. And finally, the Province’s final decision says, “all concerns and conflicts related to this were addressed or suitably mitigated,” feels like rather a bold obfuscation considering the amount of public opposition to this dock. Almost two years later, Islanders still can’t visit Ecclestone, and when the pile-driving begins to construct the dock, this public beach will never be the same again.
My colleague, Gillian Darling, and I would like to thank all the Friends Of Ecclestone Public Beach who were so supportive by writing letters and appearing before Council, including Deborah Carlson of West Coast Environmental Law. We want to express our gratitude and appreciation to you all.
- Heather Hodson & Gillian Darling
Many Voices in Silent Support of CRC Park Project
Dear Mr. Leonard and Metro Vancouver Representatives,
I am writing in support of the proposed regional park at Cape Roger Curtis. There are some Bowen Island residents who are undoubtedly against the park and I wanted to throw my name out there into the “Yes” camp.
I attended the Open House hosted by Metro Van here on Bowen a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised by both the turnout and the overall positive nature of the conversation happening. The process was professional, collaborative, and I feel that the Metro Van representatives did a great job capturing both our concerns and positive hopes for the future of the Cape.
So much of the resistance to this park is happening due to the negative and conflated effects of Social Media. I am concerned that Bowen Island Municipality and Metro Van aren’t getting an accurate representation of how all community members feel. Many are staying silent or staying out of the debate because of fear of retribution for posting anything contrary to what is being expressed on our community Facebook page. It’s disheartening to see, but I do believe that most people are either neutral, in favor, or have some concerns about the proposed campground and increased traffic, but are otherwise open to the idea of preserving and protecting the land at the Cape.
It’s my view that the conservation and protection of the fragile ecosystem at Cape Roger Curtis is best managed by the municipality, city, and the province by allowing equal access to both citizens and tourists alike. I am grateful that the land will no longer face the threat of development through private ownership.
Both my children currently attend Island Discovery Learning Community (IDLC) which is a small part-time home school here on Bowen with class time at a house currently located at Cape Roger Curtis. I personally have not heard any strong feedback from families against the park, most are in favor of it, some who live on Whitesails Drive are understandably concerned about the increased traffic, but overall it seems to be a welcomed addition to the area.
To think of my children having access to this protected forest for their education and their overall quality of life brings me great joy and peace. Who could ask for a better environment for learning?
I of course am apprehensive of the current plan to introduce 100 campsites to the area, however I trust that the process forward will be slow, phased-in, and very intentional and collaborative. I want to work with the staff of our Municipality, as well as all of you at Metro Vancouver, to work towards finding solutions and creative ways to address traffic and ferry concerns. I believe this is possible and that the stewardship of this park will be in good hands.
If nothing else, I hope my letter demonstrates that not all Bowen Island community members are against this proposal and are in fact cheering you on and hoping for a collaborative and long-term solution to issues that many other communities are facing across this province.
There are no easy or quick solutions but I believe we can offer alternative models of transportation and encourage non-vehicle tourism and that both the community and the residents of the Greater Vancouver area can enjoy this park for generations to come.
- Julie Hughes
What’s up at Camp Bowen?
Curious community members who have noticed our blind and DeafBlind students around the island want to know: “Why are there suddenly so many blind people around Bowen?”
Part of the answer is that our in-person activities were suspended during the pandemic. From 2020 to early 2022, you likely only saw Camp Bowen staff, many of whom now live on-island.
The other part of the answer can be found tucked away on quiet Snug Point. Purpose-built by countless donations of time and materials in 1962 and formerly operated by CNIB, the Bowen Lodge is once again home to programming for blind, low vision, and DeafBlind Canadians, now under the leadership of the Canadian Organization of the Blind and DeafBlind’s Camp Bowen Division.
The grassroots charity was founded by Camp Bowen alumni to continue the vision of the lodge’s founders to offer independent living skills in the off-months and summer camps in the summers, services needed now more than ever by blind and DeafBlind Canadians. The organization is currently renting the facility, which has blindness-specific features and is protected by zoning and a Section 219 Covenant for exactly these types of programs. It is the only protected facility of its kind left in Canada.
In September 2022, we started offering a 10-month program where blind, low vision, and DeafBlind Canadians can learn all the skills they need to become independent, including: adaptive technology, Braille, cane travel, cooking, employment skills, home management, and so much more. This program is unique, offering Canada’s only campus-based, intensive rehabilitation that sets blind students up with a solid foundation for independence.
Bowen’s quiet atmosphere helps beginner cane travellers to feel comfortable learning how to navigate safely. For select lessons, students hop the ferry and go into town, but this is only possible thanks to the confidence gained on Bowen. The lodge being in Snug Cove means staff, most of whom are blind or DeafBlind, and participants can visit restaurants, shops, and resupply, all without needing to be dependent on anyone, a huge confidence booster.
In August, we are excited to return to in-person camps with our Braille Literacy Camp (ages 8-12), Linda Evans Memorial Music Camp (ages 8-18), and Adult Retreat. We look forward to welcoming you to our end of camp music concert that will celebrate what campers have learned, 60 years of Camp Bowen, and more than 100 years of organized blind groups on Snug Point.
The more than 100 year relationship between the blind community and the Bowen Island community is alive and well, and we can’t thank you enough for that! On Bowen, people are so aware and embracing of the blind community. It’s not something you see often off-island and is something truly special. Thank you Bowen for all your support!
For more information, please visit us online at campbowen.ca, or call +1 (604) 947-9021
Stay tuned for an article on Camp Bowen in a future Undercurrent issue.
- Alex Jurgensen, Camp Bowen
British Columbia at 364,764 square miles is almost four times the size of Great Britain and two-and-a-half times the size of Japan. Surely Metro Vancouver can find some space to put camping grounds that is not on a small island with limited access.
Masses of visitors will provide excellent business opportunities for land developers and others and simultaneously change Bowen Island from rural to urban.
I do not believe that MV will spend $40 million dollars without demanding massive concessions including camping grounds. The eternal nature of all government is to expand its power and its vision - not yours.
If you take the park you will get the campers and Bowen Island will quickly become an adjunct urban community serving MV’s interests.
I vote NO to the park and NO to the camping grounds.
I vote YES to the original plan of 24 houses built to environmental standards us mortals can only dream about, where most of the forest will remain as is anyway and the very large tax revenue from these properties will go to Bowen Island not MV.
The birds and bees don’t care who owns the property.
- Penny Williams