‘Swim In’ gathers support for protecting Queen’s Bay from ferry terminal plan
More than 300 people gathered for a ‘Swim In’ on Kootenay Lake on Sunday to protest against plans to build a new ferry terminal near Balfour.
The protesters drove, walked, boated, and swam to the event, held on Queen’s Bay, just outside Balfour, 40 kilometres north of Nelson.
They’re upset the government is talking about moving the location of the terminal for the Kootenay Lake ferry from its current location in Balfour to the bay, located about five kilometers on Highway 3A.
They say the construction and operation of the ferry in the new location would ruin the beauty and aesthetics of the site, a popular swimming and recreation area.
“I cannot fathom this bay any other way,” speaker Kris Huiberts told the bikini and swim-trunk-clad gathering.
“I cannot imagine this wide-open mecca filled with anything other than the laughter, fun and joy of those who love and honour this precious space.”
The rocky beach was filled with opponents to the proposal, and dozens of pleasure craft filled the water on the sunny and hot summer’s day.
Organizer John Betts of the Queen’s Bay Resident’s Association says it was important to hold the demonstration to continue to keep pressure on the government to not follow through on the proposal.
“It keeps the momentum going because you have to have that groundswell,” says Betts.
“If we don’t have that groundswell then all of the work we’re doing behind the scenes to try to negotiate toe-to-toe with the government is not animated by that broad and deep support.
“We want to keep telling government that the broad and deep opposition is not going away.”
Betts also announced that the Regional District of the Central Kootenay will provide the group with money to conduct its own study on the costs and benefits of moving the ferry terminal to Queens Bay. Opponents to the plan say government studies to date are inadequate.
“We’re having a hard time trying to find a true cost-benefit analysis in their own work, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to do that,” says Betts, who says a consultant from Kamloops has been hired to do their analysis.
“He’s done many studies like this and I think having a consultant, a professional, brings authority to our report,” he says.
“He has a disinterested perspective, he can remain impartial, and he can work the analysis to truly reflect what [the move] does to community values, and other aesthetics that will be compromised.”
The transportation ministry says moving the ferry terminal would cut the run time nearly in half, saving money and energy. It would also allow the service to operate more efficiently and safely with modern loading operations.
The current landing at Balfour has been in use nearly 70 years.