Two canoes along the shoreline at Mansons Landing Provincial Parak - Photo by Roy L Hales

BC Parks flags boats on the beach at Mansons Landing

According to Lisa Ferentinos, people were leaving their small boats along the beach in Mansons Landing Provincial Park before there was a park.  

“I can’t imagine there’s ever been a time when people weren’t putting their boats on that beach. It’s been generations, and I can only assume pre-European contact there were many boats on that beach. I know, since the settlers have been here, it’s been a very popular beach for many people,” she said. 

Suddenly on Monday, October 17, a red sticker was put on every boat along the beach.

Related: Boats at Mansons Landing given a reprieve

Image adapted from Google Maps by Roy L Hales

Cortes Currents contacted the BC Parks Area Supervisor, who asked that any media questions regarding the storage of boats at Manson’s Landing be forwarded to their Media Contact. Unfortunately, he was not able to respond in time for this broadcast. In an email that arrived shortly after that, a Ministry of the Environment spokesperson stated that 57 boats had been tagged.

“Regional staff have been monitoring and inventorying abandoned boats in the park since 2018; the bulk of those identified for removal (stickered) have been in the park for an extended period of time. Boats assessed to be derelict and non-seaworthy will be removed and disposed,” he wrote.

“Boats remaining in the park after the 30 day notice expires will be removed and disposed.”

 A possible explanation for Park’s attitude may be found in a report and largely forgotten public meeting at Mansons Hall just prior to COVID.

A boat owner, who does not wish to speak publicly at this time, emailed Cortes Currents, “Parks have their hands full. We need to build a good relationship with them.” 

Another boat owner, who also wishes to remain anonymous, said he found the manner in which boats are being barred from the beach disturbing and stressed the need for more community input in these matters. 

“There was no public notice given. I’m especially concerned about people that aren’t here right now. Some are residents. A lot of ‘water access only’ people keep their boats on the beach, and they’re gone for the season. They have no idea there’s a sticker on their boat and I don’t know how to contact them.  That’s why we put the notice on the Tideline to say, ‘Hey, if you’ve got a boat down there, you probably now have a sticker on it and you might want to figure out what’s going on,’” explained Ferentinos.

“The Rangers have been absent from the park for a while. I don’t know if that’s due to COVID or staff shortages or both, but they seem to have just  shown up on the scene and are understandably concerned about a lot of the mess along the beachfront. I’m all for cleaning up derelict and abandoned stuff and trash that’s left along the beach. I would love to help out with that as long as we can have a dialogue about where to keep boats.” 

“I just find that the way it was done was inadequate. There needs to be some public discussion about the park in general and how we can better care for the park.  I think most people that keep their boats down there really love that place and want to repair any environmental damage that’s happening there, but also want to be able to continue to enjoy it. We just need to figure out how, what’s the balance there? How do we make this work?” 

“That is going to require conversation with BC Parks. They didn’t start off in the friendliest way, so there’s people that are  angry about it. I’m hoping that we can turn that into action and have a constructive dialogue with the parks folks.”

Boat temporarily tied up to a log on the beach – Photo by Roy L Hales

“There are some people whose work depends on being able to use their dinghy to get out to their boat. There’s oyster farmers that have their boats out there. There are people that use their boats for other working purposes that need a way to get back and forth to their mooring,” said Ferentinos. 

“Many families come there, especially during the warm months, and the kids play in their boats. It’s an amazing community resource, a place that many people love dearly. We’d like to be able to respond to environmental concerns, but also make it possible for people to still use their boats there.”

In February 2020, the Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI) brought Grant Lamont of Northwest Hydraulic Consultants Ltd to speak at a public meeting at Mansons Hall. His company had recently completed a study of erosion in Mansons Landing Provincial Park for BC Parks. 

One of their conclusions was, “Removal of the pier and dock structures in their entirety would thus have the greatest effect of restoring the natural longshore transport processes at the site.” 

The dock is outside of BC Park’s jurisdiction. It is owned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and managed by Harbour Authority Cortes Island (HACI).  

Someone who has observed the build-up of sediment opposite the floats since the 1950s, suggested the solution was to switch the floats from the north to the south side of the wharfhead. 

Lamont replied this was a short term solution, which might last for 10 to 15 years. 

He also said, “Minimizing pedestrian access to some areas of the spit and lagoon should be considered.” 

Ferentinos believes everyone agrees that the park is an important place to protect. Salmon feed upon the forage fish that lay their eggs in the sand. There is vegetation that is disappearing across the islands.

“There are a lot of erosion issues, in addition to the fact that the spit is eroding because of the configuration of the dock and whatever changes are happening in the sea level.  There’s  many paths and some of them are very badly eroded. It would be nice to close off some of those and just properly maintain a couple of paths down from the parking lot or the trail to the beach, so that there wasn’t so much erosion happening,” she said.

“It would be nice to see the erosion from the parking lot dealt with.  The parking lot is chaotic in the summertime. It’s a nightmare basically. There’s way too many cars and there’s way too little space and there’s a lot of kids running around and being unsafe.”

Erosion and fencing at the end of treed area on the spit – Roy L Hales photo.

Lamont’s report makes two references to the boats on the beach:

“Smaller non-motorized boats (dinghies, kayaks, etc.) are frequently pulled onshore and stowed along the crest of the beach on either side of the pier despite the storage of boats above the natural boundary as being contrary to the Park Act and Regulations.” – p 4.

“Recreational usage of the park may serve to prevent establishment of native vegetation and exacerbate ongoing erosion processes. As such, minimizing pedestrian access to some areas of the spit and lagoon should be considered. Methods to accomplish this include improved signage, additional fencing, relocation of the parking lot and walking trails further south, and disallow storage of small boats/kayaks on the beach crest. Despite the obvious negative impact to recreational usage of the site, this management technique would be low cost and help protect the ecological and cultural values of the park. Further, the park is relatively large and there would remain other areas for public access.” – p 30.

Ferentinos said that, in general, boats tend to be kept closer to the parking lot than the spit. Some of the boats that have been on the grass for lengthy periods may have caused some damage.

“It might be a good thing to just not have any boats from the dock north  toward the spit and just to concentrate everything on the other side. We just need to figure out an appropriate place where boats can be kept instead of just banning them all at once with improper notice,” she said.  

Boats along the shore in front of the parking lot – Photo by Roy L Hales

“There’s been a lot of suggestions put forth by all the people that are concerned about it. One is to create some kind of rack maybe near where the outhouse is, where there’s  a clearing already for things like canoes and kayaks, because they can be easily carried up and down. However for dinghies, they’re big and heavy, hard to carry around a lot. It might be nicer if there was a place closer to the beach, perhaps a designated area near the parking lot.” 

“Maybe we need to have a system of checking up on people once a year or so to make sure that  the boats aren’t abandoned. I know that abandoned boats is a big problem and there are many over there that should be taken away because they’re just basically rotting in place.  We do support removing those, but we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water.” 

“There’s been some talk of moving the ramp as well, because right now people have to drive out onto the spit to launch boats. Even though they put up a gate, the gate’s always open. Even though they say, ‘Please don’t drive out here  unless you really need to,’ lots of people are driving out there. So  it’s not really effective. It does seem like it would be good to get cars off of the spit in general and maybe make a ramp closer to the parking lot,  perhaps on the south side of the dock where people could launch their boats.” 

Boats pulled back on the beach – Photo by Roy L Hales

HACI posted an invitation for them to use the dock.

Harbourmaster Jenny Hartwick explained, “The Harbor Authority had nothing to do with the parks placing notifications on those vessels.  It only came to our attention because there was a community notice posted on the Tideline and that was actually the first we had heard of it. We  just wanted to post a notice making sure that everybody knew that they were welcome to put their boats at the dock.” 

Ferentinos responded, “It doesn’t really work well for canoes and kayaks because they’re not really made to be left in the water all the time. They are low in the water and just basically fill up. Wakes, and airplanes coming and going, create a problem for smaller boats.  We have kept our dinghy at the dock. We still do at sometimes of the year, but it’s not a very good place for dinghies . A lot of times people with the larger power boats come and untie the smaller boats so that they can put their boat right up against the dock. They don’t like having to climb across in other boats to get to the dock a lot of times. We find our boat has been untied and then improperly re-tied. Actually one time we got a call saying that our dinghy was floating away. Somebody mentioned their dinghy was left in a precarious situation, floated away and was found smashed up on the rocks between Mansons and Shark Spit. A lot of people with dinghies have found that it’s not a safe place for those reasons and also because there’s a lot of theft at the dock. 

One of the anonymous boat owners informed Cortes Currents that he stopped tying up at the dock after it was stolen. 

Kayaks – Photo by Roy L Hales

“I realize the Harbor Authority folks have an impossible job and I don’t want to put any blame onto them. I feel like things have gotten worse at the docks over the years in general because there’s people that come and go.  It’s not monitored. There’s a lot of people that don’t have a place to live that are living in boats now. There’s just more pressure on the whole situation. Some docks have somebody who’s hired to be there most of the time, but our docks are all too small to afford that.  So we’re  stuck in this situation where there’s really nobody watching and so bad stuff happens,” said Ferentinos.

“It just seems safer on the beach. If we have our dinghy further away from the dock and upside down, with no obvious oars there,  people don’t bother it. Too far for them to walk and they can’t be bothered to figure out how to get some oars. It feels safer keeping it on the beach, because of the issue of theft.”

The written version of this story was published on the morning of Nov 1, with some additional material added after a Ministry of the Environment email arrived in the late afternoon.

Top image credit: Two canoes along the shoreline at Mansons Landing Provincial Park – Photo by Roy L Hales

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