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For Saanich park's neighbours, public dock a 23-metre eyesore

Sep 15 2012

A very large controversy - 23 metres long and 28 square metres afloat - is making waves on Prospect Lake where it meets Whitehead Park in rural Saanich.

According to lakefront residents, the public dock, gangway and deck are overbuilt eyesores that may be dangerous.

Then again, the wider community may welcome the structure as a spacious new access point to one of the municipality's handful of waterfront parks.

One thing is for sure: The structure dominates the scene far more than the community association expected.

Longtime lakefront resident Winona Pugh is aghast and says she speaks for at least 20 people.

"This is crazy," she says as installation continued Friday.

She envisioned a small wooden platform, not a big one along with cement pilings for a major gangway with shiny aluminum railings that she said will destroy the restful esthetics of the view across the lake.

"There were people in tears when it arrived," laments Jane Penn.

Not only will the structure disrupt the lakeshore, but it's more likely to lure teenage partiers quite far out to the lake where serious muddiness could trap anyone who fell in, she says.

"Hideous," says closest neighbour Roman Kobrc.

"This is a small park. They can get away with it on Elk Lake, but not here."

In contrast, Lola Thornton, a longtime resident who lives nearby, though not on the lake, welcomed the project.

"I think it's great - you're going to be able to get on the water a little more," she says. She was visiting Whitehead's new playground with her toddler granddaughter who will "definitely" enjoy treks onto the $100,000 structure.

A worker on the site called out: "It'll be beautiful. It's a wonderful thing for the community."

The irony is that Saanich got the ball rolling on the structure after the Prospect Lake and District Community Association struck a committee that recommended a dock for greater access to the lake.

Rae Roer, Saanich's senior parks manager, says the dock had to be built according to fluctuations of the water levels and other physical issues.

"We're building, for lack of a better term, a commercial-size dock for public access," Roer says.

The width of the gangplank is in accordance with the building code and will accommodate people coming and going at the same time.

The new structure is a community asset and an opportunity for people who are not fortunate enough to have lakefront property to enjoy the lake, he says.

The entire board of the community association only found out about the scale of the project on Sept. 4, which was "way too late" for Saanich to put on the brakes, board member Barb Newton says.

"This is going to be really disturbing for the people that live right in that little bay. It has such a huge presence. It is such a shame that they went to all this trouble and expense and now there's going to be a community uproar."

There are already private docks on the lake of a similar size, wrote Gary Darrah, Saanich manager of park planning and design in a letter to Pugh.

In her own letter, she told Saanich it is "sending a terrible message" to lakefront owners that large docks and gangways are acceptable and that waterfront habitat and wildlife don't seem to matter much. Why disrupt the remaining 10 per cent of undisturbed shoreline on the lake, she asks.

The size of the dock will overpower the wading area and force paddlers to carry canoes and kayaks 15 metres farther to launch, she says.

Saanich hired environmental monitor Sara Stallard to prevent damage to fish, wildlife and the environment and do the installation within federal and provincial parameters.

While she's been on the site, "the majority of people that have been coming by have been neutral or positive."

"I don't think the materials used are bad for the environment," Stallard says, noting the use of a silt curtain to reduce the release of sediments from construction into the lake.

"We're trying to mitigate everything that can be mitigated."

kdedyna@timescolonist.com

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