Notes on the South side ferry dock option for Bowen Island

The following diagram (which may be enlarged in a new window by clicking it) sketches three main alternatives to the existing arrangements that are representative of the various alternative schemes that have been proposed over past years. The following text and diagrams explain the South side ferry dock and marshalling area, and indicate why it is the best option for future development of Bowen Island's ferry transportation facility.

Figure 1: Aerial photo with three marshalling alternatives
See Footnote 1
(Click image to enlarge)

Figure 2: Sketch plan of proposed South side facility on marine chart of Snug Cove
(Click image to enlarge)
(Chart Source: Chart 3311, Sheet 1, 1993, © Ministry of Fisheries & Oceans, 1993.
Approximate only; not to be used for navigation.)

Various groups have considered the three basic approaches to ferry docking and marshalling—in the North Crippen Park, on Government Road, and in the South Crippen Park. Whilst acknowledging that cost is an issue, it is important to realise that cost is measured on a number of dimensions and not just in dollar terms. The provision of ferry docking and marshalling is so central to the future development of Snug Cove, and to Bowen Island in general, including business opportunities, commuters, tourism, quality of life, amenity, and aesthetics, that a wrong decision is likely to cause irreparable harm to our future lifestyle, opportunities, security and property values.

The council would be derelict in its duty to Bowen Island citizens if it fails to deal with the ferry facilities issue in a way that optimises the benefits to the whole community. The acknowledged best long-term solution is to provide a new dock on the South side of Snug Cove”the "South Side Option" (SSO).

The South Side Option offers minimal visual impact - low profile, mostly hidden, and well clear of the Bowfest Field. Well-informed experts and lay persons regard the south side option as the best long-term solution to the ferry. It avoids many of the problems bedevilling the Snug Cove Village Planning process and uses derelict land that adjoins the sewage plant constructively. It can also provide proper access to a rejuvenated south park.

The dock should be constructed to meet modern seismic standards, as required for emergency use in the event of an earthquake or major island fire. It is a basic requirement for emergency planning.

Existing ferry facilities”the "Queen of Capilano" docking at the foot of Government Road can take 458 passengers each trip. In the summer, the population of Bowen can be up to 6,000 or more. At least 13 evacuation trips would be needed, even if everything went smoothly, taking far too long for safety with a fire in an extreme fire hazard condition. Also, those people would have to get to the Cove, mostly by vehicle”one or two thousand”creating chaos in the current restricted village area, with many being abandoned, and perhaps with competition for a few ferry slots. The south side option could handle the problem because a C-class ferry could dock and clear the island in four hours or less. The ferry and the south side space could handle nearly 1,500 passengers and 360 vehicles per trip.

The main objection to the south side option has been the cost. Mark Collins, BC Ferries' Vice-President of Engineering and Terminal Construction, has written that BC Ferry Services Incorporated (BCFSI) would have no problem financing it. They spend about $130 million a year on such capital projects.

Even if the entire cost were put on ferry fares with two per cent municipal financing, a modest surcharge would pay for it over a 25 year amortization period”$1.50 for vehicles and 50‘ for passengers (worst case, if there were no other financing sources). The last three years have seen increases of $3.81 and $2.01 respectively with no benefit.

Merchants in the Cove would also benefit. Many residents currently avoid the Cove because of the congestion and lack of parking caused by the ferry operations. As for the trade gained from those waiting for the ferry, the distance from the south side option to the Cove is comparable to the distance from many cars lining up the hill, or down by the ferry dock. There would also be easy parking for visitors to leave their cars whilst going to the Cove to shop or eat, with greatly increased parking both sides of Government Road, and overflow parking in the ferry marshalling area a level 3-minute walk away. Arriving traffic currently gets directed out of the village.

Instead of a "ferry marshalling yard" in a village, we should be able to aim at the much desired "village in a park".

What follows provides some detailed insight into the proposed South side ferry docking and marshalling facility.

  1. The road deck along the shore has to extend far enough down the cove to keep the ferry away from the USS Marina and the existing government dock, to allow room for wings and dolphins, and to allow a turning place for passenger drop-off by buses and taxis, in the turn-around shown in the plans above. It should also be tucked into the shore-line to minimise visual and physical impact on the shoreline, and allow plenty of clearance for vessels entering the marina, including pile-driving equipment and dredgers. Such a deck would enhance the marine environment along the shore by providing sheltered habitat
  2. Note that the South side position for the ferry dock removes the ferry wash problems that currently plague access to the Government dock and (to a less extent) the USS marina. It also avoids the ferry crossing the path of incoming pleasure vessels. It avoids the problems of a longer ferry than the Capilano trying to turn into the existing dock. Such a ferry would also tend to block the entrance to the USS marina.
  3. There is a sewer outfall running pretty well along the intended line of the raised road deck from the sewage works. This will need carefully monitored to avoid damage during construction and maintenance. Possibly some synergy could be incorporated (the sewer could perhaps be modified to be partly supported under the structure if that would reduce overall maintenance costs, but there is no other reason to disturb the sewer).
  4. Five lanes are required for the foreshore road deck to allow unloading in two lanes, plus marshalling for loading in two lanes, while still allowing a lane for access to the turning area for buses and taxis. In addition a sidewalk for pedestrians is required. Around half the marshalling area would be on this structure. The remainder, in the woods, would not require curbs, gutters and the like, in fact the management and discharge of such rainwater collection could prove problematical as well as expensive and unnecessary. On land, gravel paths and "country roads" may be preferable as well as cost-saving.
  5. If cars are marshalled in any manner that requires lanes to divide or merge, experience has shown that someone would be required to supervise the marshalling and loading. The proposal presented herewith avoids that problem by providing just two lanes of marshalling with enough space to meet all foreseeable traffic increase. This is one of several very important advantages of the South side proposal. Even the maximum number of vehicles anticipated for the future could be accomodated in two self-marshalling lanes”the ideal arrangement. Marshalling personnel would not be required”a significant ongoing cost saving.
  6. There would be two lanes, each approximately 800 metres long, in which to marshall vehicles waiting for the ferry. Allowing 6.5 metres per vehicle we arrive at a figure of roughly 246 passenger vehicle equivalents. This is roughly three times the capacity of the current ferry (the Queen of Capilano).
  7. The turn-around area is fitted in to conform to the actual topography. The area shown is big enough for local buses to stop, load and unload passengers, and turn around into the exit lanes, without impeding other traffic that is doing the same thing. A figure showing the relative size of our existing North-side dock, that was used for turning cars and buses in the past, is shown as a white polygon superimposed on the turning area. There is room for various conveniences such as a shelter.
  8. The parking in the centre of the marshalling/parking area, which is not the same as the cars parked while waiting to load on the ferry, can be made to measure and is capable of meeting all foreseeable needs. It can start small, but is capable of accommodating 160 parked cars if enlarged to the maximum. The sketch plan of Figure 3 shows a parking area for about 50 cars. The area is roughly 300 yards (a 3 or 4 minute walk) from the main lower Cove shops via a level path that joins the existing board walk that leads to Doc Morgans, Blue Eyed Mary's and other shops in the village. For those who are mobiity challenged the existing bus service could make stops in the village on its regular runs.

    Figure 3: Sketch plan of parking area for South side scheme
    (Click image to enlarge)

  9. Some existing specimen trees in the marshalling area should be preserved, but the slash and weed trees could be replaced by better stock. Other landscaping (low-maintenance shrubs, trees, and so on) could make a very pleasant area, and enhance the existing screening to hide the area, even from the Bowfest ground which is near, and certainly from the village. The area could be a shady retreat with characteristics that blended in with a rejuvenated South Park.
  10. The roadways are arranged so that the South parking stalls are preferred for traffic arriving from the Island interior while North parking stalls are preferred for traffic arriving from off the Island. However, both types of traffic can access both parking sides. Some people arriving on the ferry may want to park and walk to the village for a meal or shopping before driving elsewhere on the Island (e.g. Xenia, or one of the beaches or hiking trail-heads). The parking could also be used for Island visitors to South Crippen Park. For those walking to the park from the lower part of the Cove, via the boardwalk, it might be worth providing a light foot-bridge over the traffic lanes, but a normal pedestrian crossing of the road should serve, given that there would only be significant traffic at ferry times, and the lanes are not in mixed directions—which is what caused some of the problems in the summer of 2003 when there were mixed directions on Government Road.
  11. Shelter should be provided at the turn-around area near the ferry ramp and would include toilet facilities. Perhaps electric composting toilets would deal with the human waste in an environmentally friendly way would be appropriate. Alternatively, sewage could be pumped to the existing sewage treatment plant which is nearby.
  12. Upper deck off-loading for foot passengers is a possibility. Given the steep bluff near the ferry dock, they could be off-load onto an upgraded woodland pathway that led gently down to the turn-around area to catch a bus or to the board-walk for those preferring to walk to the village. An elevator could perhaps be provided for thos who found stairs or climbing paths difficult to manage. If this were done, toilet & waiting facilities could be provided at the upper level, hidden in the trees, eliminating some of the need for space and facilities in the turn-around area. Sewage from this location would flow to the plant by gravity. Details such as this are a matter of choice, but upper level foot passenger unloading would reduce the ferry round-trip time, and allow the schedule to be met while keeping fuel costs as low as possible. The cost would likely be less than building an off-loading structure at the present dock, since the land already provides elevation.
  13. There should be a speed limit of 20 kph in all areas associated with the new parking and ferry marshalling, and access roads.
  14. The clearance between the government dock and the new ferry structures has been taken into consideration, addressing the need to allow boats, small float planes, and—on occasion—dredgers, pile driving barges, or a floating office building, to pass through and access the inner docks. There's a minimum of 60 feet horizontal clearance between the end of the existing government dock and the proposed new structure. This would accomodate the largest sail and motor boats likely to seek berthage at the Union Steam Ship Marina as well as normal light aircraft traffic and the occasional working vessel etc. The the final design for the structure could almost certainly increase this already generous clearance by taking advantage of the local terrain to squeeze the structure further South. There are shoals on the South shore which larger vessels must avoid anyway. Some have suggested that South shore shoals and reefs block the proposed ferry docking area. Both the aerial photograph ( Figure 1) and the marine chart view (Figure 2) show that this is not based on fact. The facilities also are planned to avoid any need to damage the steep bluffs along the shore, though additional detailed planning is clearly necessary.
  15. The road deck could comprise precast concrete planks, beams and piles pinned to the bedrock with a concrete topping road surface (the "trestle" option, which is environmentally optimal). For the cheapest construction option, 2004 costs were estimated to be $400Can per square meter of structure. With a deck 17 meters wide and roughly 350 meters long, plus a section widened for 100 meters by an average of 1 meter, this would give a total cost of (400 x 17 x 350)+(400 x 100 x 1) = $2.42 million. Add to this an allowance of $3.0M for the marine dock works plus $1.0M for roadways and parking on land, and engineering fees of $0.5 million gives a total of roughly $7 million. Finally, add a contingency of 25% to give $8.75 million. If the work is not carried out by the municipality, there would be a GST cost of seven percent to give a final total of roughly $9.4 million. Thus the cost of the South side ferry facility would be somewhere in the range $7 million to $9.4 million, assuming the land can be acquired for very low cost. Since then, BC Ferries estimated a more expensive construction cost at $25 million, building the roadway on a rock base. As recorded at the beginning of these notes, these costs would be covered by BC Ferries, who allocate around $130 million a year for such capital projects. Even if the while cost of the expensive construction option were eventually recovered by a surcharge on ferry fares, a modest surcharge would pay for it over a 25 year amortization period”$1.50 for vehicles and 50‘ for passengers (worst case, if there were no other financing sources). The last three years have seen increases of $3.81 and $2.01 respectively with no benefit.
  16. The raised road deck could optionally have electric heating to provide positive frost/ice removal. The main cost would be installation. The usage cost would be low as it would only need to operate for limited periods in winter. Electrical heating elements embedded in the deck top coat would be suitable. Salt could also be used”over sea water there should not be an environmental problem”but would entail salting costs. Comparitive costing is required as well as consultation with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)”for this and other reasons.
  17. Figure 4 provides an artist's impression of the view of the proposed structure seen from a viewpoint somewhat above the lower Cove. For people at ground level, much of the structure would be hidden behind the hulls and masts of boats in the USS Marina, as well as the many buildings in the area. The overall visual impact would be minimal, especially with appropriate landscaping, where appropriate.

    Figure 4: Artist's impression of the proposed South side structure
    (Click image to enlarge)

  18. Road markings would be required at the exit approach to Dorman Road to indicate that the left lane must turn left at Dorman Road and the right lane must turn right, with a notice also warning drivers to get in the correct lane. The length of road provided, and the absence of any competing traffic means that it should be easy to get in the correct lane, given reasonable and plentiful warning. This obviates the need to widen Dorman Road. Perhaps the stop signs at Government Road would need to be switched. However, if it should be decided to widen Dorman Road and place a traffic circle at the junction with Government/Trunk Road, there is just enough room for four lanes and a sidewalk in the most constricted portion as well as for the necessary fairing into the traffic circle although this might encroach on private land. Note that heavy trucks can already use the existing two lane road so it is doubtful that such alterations would be necessary. Even Government Road's five lanes are less than the standard width.
  19. Clear markings would be required at the entrance to the marshalling area to ensure that drivers would know which lanes provided access for marshalling, and which lane provided access for drop-off to the ferry dock itself. Perhaps a traffic circle would ease problems arising from people arriving to catch the ferry while it was unloading. There is enough land space, but such a step would depend on who owns the land, and whether a traffic circle was deemed necessary. Incoming traffic would only be competing with traffic turning left to head South on Dorman Road.

Some additional points to consider

  1. The proposed arrangements, which allow self-marshalling with no confusion or possibility of queue jumping, are important for achieving a low cost, low aggravation, efficient system. Marshalling costs can be significant (typically 4 full-time personnel to cover two shifts, weekdays and weekends, with on-call backup to cover illness). There is also no problem with cars becoming misplaced due to overload conditions, and the Captain has an excellent view of virtually the entire marshalling area—which is more important than most people realise.
  2. The Bowen Island Emergency Planning is not well advanced at present. It is almost certainly essential to provide a second ferry dock that has been designed with seismic codes in mind. This alone could require that a new ferry dock be built. In addition, a second ferry dock is needed as an emergency facility in case the main dock is unavailable for any number of reasons, including breakdown, obstruction, or major maintenance. The existing ferry dock will have to be rebuilt at some point, and the Island cannot afford to be without ferry service for any significant time.
  3. According to Mark Collins, of BC Ferry Services Inc (both verbally following the Monday December 13th. 2004 council presentation, and in an email dated June 10th. 2011) the South side dock offers "operational advantages"—meaning it would make it easier to keep to schedule and reduce fuel costs. Avoiding the dog-leg course needed to enter the existing dock, and streamlining loading and unloading, saves time and facilitates emergency use of a larger ferry. There is also the possibility that the ability to dock larger ferries could promote various kinds of flexibility. A big ferry could be docked overnight or a big ferry plying longer routes could call into Snug Cove to pick-up or drop off Island passengers, thus providing extra sailings to and from Horseshoe Bay without extra traffic at the Horseshoe Bay end, reducing the need for a bigger Island (and saving the multi-million dollar cost ferry and/or increasing the frequency of service.
  4. To provide the 1600 metres of ferry marshalling lanes, plus an additional 160 parking stalls, in the Snug Cove Village area would require devoting (5280 + 2560) = 7840 square metres (0.784 hectares or nearly two acres) of village area to temporary vehicle storage. The total area of Snug Cove village core is roughly 28 hectares so that we should be devoting nearly 3% of the village. The North side park area is approximately six hectares so that taking the required space from that area would remove 13% of the park land and affect a much greater area due to the access, view and interference problems. The south side option utilizes mostly derelict land. By way of comparison, Government Road to Cates Corner occupies roughly 0.25 hectares. Of course, some parking could be provided on Government Road itself, but not the 160 stalls possible on the South side as that would consume the entire surface of Government Road!
  5. In the long term, it seems inevitable that the ferry terminal will need to be moved to the south side Crippen Park, south of the Bowfest Field, and screened from the field (and the village) by a band of trees and shrubs, including a fair number of the existing trees.
  6. If the ferry marshalling is expanded within the core village perimeter, it will be impossible to create the "village-within-a-park" ambience that is propposed in various planning documents. Worse, the village will effectively be split in two by an area reminiscent of the Horseshoe Bay terminal area, and residents on the North side, particularly those on Snug Point, will be seriously affected.
  7. The suggestion that large vehicles would find negotiating the corners at the old gas station difficult is a canard. The biggest vehicles have no difficulty manouevering in any direction even now. The fact is that large vehicles are manouevered with skilfull ease all around this Island.
  8. It has been suggested that merchants having businesses in the Cove would suffer if the ferry traffic were moved to the South side. The well-being of our island businesses is of considerable importance but no evidence has been provided to show that the merchants would suffer. Many island residents currently avoid the Cove because of the unsatisfactory conditions. This problem would be resolved, while visitors, if they chose to park in the ferry line up, would only be a few minutes away, over level ground. A considerably easier journey than trudging up and down the hill on Government Road, a considerable distance in itself. Moreover, island residents would, once again, be able to park easily, and to use the Cove without interference from activities related to ferry operations
  9. The council is responsible for emergency planning. A second, seismically protected ferry docking terminal facility, clear of the village (whose traffic may be impeded in a variety of ways in the event of an earthquake) is essential to proper emergency planning. Such a terminal would also provide a back-up in case of damage, maintenance, or replacement of the other facility. If a second terminal is to be built, where else could it go other than the South side (or a considerable distance away at Seymour Bay with no facilities)? It would become the main, seismically protected terminal, with the ability to receive a large ferry in case evacuation needed to be speeded up. This is an important issue. The new marshalling area would, under such emergency conditions, provide more than enough space to hold enough vehicles and passengers to fill a ship like the "Queen of Coquitlam" (362 vehicles and 1,466 passengers) without impeding the village and the second terminal. Normal marshalling could accomodate roughly 240 vehicles in just two lanes, with one lane for access and two lanes for off-loading.
  10. Note that the municipality is actively considering a new municipal facility that may include theatre and arts facilities, a conference hall, sports facilities and so on. We also note that this facility, which will cost several million dollars, has been approved in principle (at the December 13th. 2004 council meeting). Proper ferry and emergency facilities must be at least as important for Island life style and security and the council have to pay! It is an affordable user pays system underwritten by BC Ferries.
  11. Similar approval in principle for a South side ferry terminal as was given for the municipal facility should be granted by the Bowen Municipal Council.
  12. Why would we spend $4 million ruining the Cove, and/or the North Park—which is both highly used and highly visible—when a better solution exists that also meets our emergency needs, on the South side where the park is less visible, less accessible, and full of junk. The terminal would actually enhance the South side by cleaning it up and making it more accessible without being visually objectionable (since the land-based part angles into the trees).
  13. The council actually has the power to hold GVRD hostage if it chooses to use its zoning powers appropriately. However, negotiations should be done in a spirit of cooperation rather than confrontation, insofar as GVRD will cooperate, but council should not accept GVRD control over public island lands that are needed for important municipal purposes.


  1. The charts, maps, official plans, and GeoLibrary data all show discrepancies, one from the other, and with what is on the ground. This is quite normal with such data, due to differences in co-ordinate systems, projections, conversions and the like. Some of these discrepancies are seen in Figure 1—the aerial photograph with other data superimposed (light green for Crippen Park, and white for lot boundaries & paths). The aerial photograph—with a resolution of 15 cm on the ground—has been taken as the base for applying the roadway, terminal and parking sketch. The lot and footpath data is only approximate, for information. The aerial photograph data, with superimposed lot lines, road allowances, footpaths, and so on, are as supplied by Dunster & Associates, of Bowen Island.
    Return to Figure 1.

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Page last updated 2011-06-14.