Concerned citizens opposed to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure plans to relocated the Balfour Terminal want elected officials to designate the area a regional park a member of a steering committee coordinating residents and businesses said in a media release.
The information came after 125 local residents and businesses met in Balfour Thursday night to hear community leaders frame a strategy to oppose relocating the Balfour ferry terminal to Queen’s Bay.
The meeting was held in part due to widespread frustration with the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure three-week public consultation process announced earlier this month.
The main opportunity to date for input has been a Ministry open house held at Redfish Elementary School on the North Shore.
Many felt that engagement was mostly about promoting building a terminal in Queen’s Bay rather than genuinely consulting the public.
“I don’t think people feel that the Ministry is listening to them,” said Robin Goldsbury a Balfour ferry landing business owner and a member of the steering committee coordinating residents and businesses who want the terminal to stay where it is.
“The purpose of this meeting was to hear people’s concerns. We also wanted to show there is leadership determined to keep the ferry terminal and local businesses operating in Balfour. If we can do that we can protect the pristine environmental and recreational values of Queens Bay.”
Goldsbury said principal among the concerns heard at the meeting were the economic impacts on Balfour ferry landing businesses, which have built up around the tourist and regular Kootenay Lake ferry traffic.
Many fear jobs lost from the ferry landing businesses, and on the ferry itself due to the relocation, will have a devastating and wide spread effect, not just in Balfour, but to the regional economy as well.
Another major concern to Balfour residents, whose community intake is in Queens Bay.
“What will happen to my drinking water once they start construction, then operating the ferry and the pollution that goes with that?” asked Tyler Beauchamp whose Queens Bay cottage has been in his family for generations.
“Who will be responsible?”
Queen's Bay resident said the unique attributes of the Queens Bay shoreline and the water in the bay make it worth turning into a regional park.
At the meeting they announced their intention to preserve the shoreline the ministry is considering turning into a parking lot, sewage treatment facility and dock for the relocated ferry service.
“Queens Bay beach is a popular recreational area. It also is one of the few shallow, warm bays on the lake making it prime fish habitat,” said John Betts speaking on behalf of the Queens Bay Residents’ Association sponsoring the petition for the park.
Betts pointed out the shoreline has historical and cultural significance for both First Nations and Victorian pioneer settlers.
It is also an area noted for its sightings of the illusive and possibly endangered Blue-Tailed Skink.
In laying out other strategic actions to keep the ferry terminal in Balfour Betts emphasized the value of residents continuing to email, phone, fax and write to politicians.
“That is one of the main ways that the politicians will measure just how big the groundswell of opposition is out here. We also have a problem at home. Many people just don’t believe the government would be so foolish to close Balfour, then wreck one of the nicest bays on the lake. We need to work on our neighbours to add their voice. “