Category Archives: Testimonials

Giant Docks – Coming to a Beach Near You?

By Melissa Harrison

Bowen Island, BC – March 10, 2015
Presented to Islands Trust

I think we will all agree that beaches and shorelines are of prime importance to our enjoyment of our island homes. Many of us, especially those with young children, spend many hours on public beaches each year. Beaches are not only important for our well-being and enjoyment, but they are also vitally important for the economies of the islands; for attracting visitors and new residents, access to beautiful coastline is key.

1. The Situation on Bowen

The shoreline of Cape Roger Curtis has long been treasured by Bowen Islanders, because of its pristine, rugged, windswept beauty, with rock pools and many pocket beaches and swimming beaches as well as great nature watching. Located in the mouth of Howe Sound, with pockets of forage fish habitat amongst the cobbles and rocks, the Cape is a stop off for migratory fish, birds and marine mammals.

When the developers of the Cape applied for four large docks, the applications attracted significant opposition. Fifty six letters were written to the Province opposing the proposed docks. The municipality wrote with a number of concerns, including the specific mention in the OCP of protecting that stretch of coastline, and asked that some further studies be done, refusing to support the applications as they stood. Additionally, the applications seemed to conflict with the Province’s own dock policy, which says that docks should not negatively impact the environment, community values or public interest. Despite all this, the Province approved the licences, citing a lack of specific prohibitions in the municipal bylaws. The approval prompted a petition in opposition which gained 1345 signatures.

For context, private docks on Bowen tend to be below or up to 65 feet long, including the length of the float. The longest dock at the Cape is 431 feet long, and stands 27 feet above the beach. Please see the second photograph below. These industrial scale structures stand beside empty lots, essentially as a developer amenity. They have been used less than a handful of times, and as they are so exposed, they will likely never be used. And yet there they will stand, monuments to bad policy and process. And there are four more dock applications with the Province for this development alone.

2. The Issue for the Islands Trust

We are seeing increasing numbers of large docks being approved by the Province in the face of public and neighbourhood opposition. I have heard directly about one on Galiano, and we have all read about the 2500 sqft, Chip Wilson application in Sechelt. Islands Trustees need to recognize that megadocks seem to have become fashionable. I suppose that large docks are needed where you plan to own a large boat and you have chosen a home because it fronts a beach but would like to reach deep water. Whereas in the past, waterfront owners would have simply accepted that their property is not suitable for a dock, now people see that as a surmountable difficulty and are willing to spend the $100k plus to do it.

2.1 Concerns with the Dock Application Process

Short Timelines Imposed

What brings me here today is a letter that Bowen municipality received two weeks ago. In that letter, the FLNRO manager of authorizations, Keith Anderson, stated that FLNRO has ‘recently developed a 140 Day Turnaround Project’ where their ‘Performance Measures’ state that ‘80% of new Land and Water Act Tenure applications must have a decision made within 140 days from the acceptance of the application.’ Bear in mind that this includes: BC notifying local authorities, proponents publishing the required public notice, public responses to the proposal, assessment of those responses, instructions to staff, assessment of the site, consideration of the application as part of a public process, responses to FLNRO. It seems to me that this timeline is an impossible imposition for small authorities to meet, given that while some applications may be very straight forward, many are complex and time consuming for local jurisdictions to assess. And yet that complex work is vital to ensure public and private interests are appropriately balanced. To give one example, folk I know in Galiano spend the winter in warmer climes. The entire application process for their neighbour’s dock took place while they were away without their even hearing about it, and they came back to find a large dock had been approved and  construction was underway, crossing in front of their property. They were devastated.

Default Approvals Encroach on Jurisdictional Right to Determine Land Uses

A giant dock oscures half the horizon from a bech on Bowen Island - The Cape On Bowen's 'Untouched Shores'

A dock with no house, obscuring half the view from our beach – approved by Provincial Government despite protest.

The 140 day processing time limitation becomes exceptionally problematic, given that FLNRO’s default seems to be to approve projects, as an implicit consequence of their ‘public commitment to cut red tape,’ rather than to take a precautionary approach, i.e. declining applications where a local jurisdiction cannot support them. In the case of the Cape Roger Curtis dock applications, the municipality refused to send a letter of support because they had asked for further studies and accommodations that were not fulfilled. Despite this, the Province chose to approve.  In my view the Province is overstepping the mark with respect to land use, by developing their ‘Turnaround Project’ and ‘cutting red tape’ policy, without any consultation with, or even giving notice to, local jurisdictions, especially since the Crown is under no obligation to approve any land disposition. Unfortunately, by limiting the ability of local jurisdictions to adequately respond, the Province severely curtails its ability to fulfill its own duty to ‘maximize and sustain the flow of economic, social and environmental benefits to British Columbians, now and in the future,’ (from the Crown Land Use Operational Policy: Private Moorage, Appendix 3) given the significant negative impact on public recreational amenities that giant private docks on public beaches impose.

Undermining Environmental Protection

The Bowen Land Use Bylaw clearly states that docks should not ‘negatively impact eelgrass meadows, kelp beds, clam beds or mussel beds.’ This statement is both clear and absolute. The Cape biological dive surveys undertaken by the proponents showed two of the docks to be located in important kelp and eelgrass beds. However the Province decided that ‘effective mitigation measures, best management practices and monitoring can be used to address impacts to aquatic values resulting in no net loss to the areas’ productive capacities’ (from their ‘Reasons for Decision, Oct 29, 2012). In this statement, the Province is accepting mitigation measures where they have neither the capacity nor interest in assuring a) that the proposed mitigation is accepted practice, b) that the proposed mitigation is carried out, or c) that the municipality has the capacity to monitor mitigation. The reality is that many of the mitigations suggested, eg transplanting eelgrass, are neither proven nor were they carried out. So in this case, even a clear and absolute prohibition of negative environmental impact in the municipal Land Use Bylaw proved to be no protection at all, because the Province took it upon itself to interpret the bylaws and to err on the side of approval rather than precaution.

Public Consultation Failure

In the case of Cape Roger Curtis, the Province received significant negative feedback from the public, totaling fifty six letters. And yet this feedback had no impact on the outcome. As the Province described their ‘referral process’ to me, they refer the applications to a small number of agencies (principally Transport Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, relevant First Nations and the local authority). But the Province’s interest in public comments extends only as far as riparian access and the legal right to apply for a moorage in that location. So every single one of those families and organizations which responded to the invitation to comment were wasting their time, but more importantly, they were mislead into believing that they were contributing to a consultation process that would be an opportunity to influence the outcome. It was not.

Given that the Province also ignored the municipality’s interpretation of their OCP, this means that in effect, the only opportunity for public input to influence the outcome of dock applications is through explicit prohibitions, nailed down in local bylaws, and even those, it seems, are subject to interpretation.

2.2 No Protection of Enjoyment of Beaches in the Islands Trust Policy

Moving on from the Provincial dock application process, in exploring the issues surrounding the Cape docks, I looked to the Islands Trust Policy Statement. In Part V: Sustainable Communities, the policy speaks to protection of ‘scenic values, views, distinctive features,’ the preservation of ‘natural amenities’ and ‘natural heritage’. All of these could apply to beaches and coastal viewscapes; yet in the directive policies and recommendations section, there is mention of preserving tree cover, but it says nothing about the aesthetic and recreational enjoyment of beaches, for just hanging out at the beach. Further, in Part IV: Stewardship of Resources, 4.5 Coastal Areas and Marine Shorelands, the policy says that development should not ‘restrict public access to, from or along the marine shoreline’ and should ‘minimize impacts on sensitive coastal environments.’ However, again it omits to refer to aesthetic and recreational enjoyment of beaches. Given the significance of beaches as a natural amenity to islanders’ social, cultural and economic wellbeing, this seems to me a significant omission which could be easily and uncontroversially addressed, and would provide better guidance and safeguards to the local trusts.

2.3 Recommendations for Trustees

In summary, I have a number of recommendations that I urge you to consider:

  • All trustees should be informed about the risks posed to treasured beaches and shorelines by the growing trend for giant docks, as well as the Province’s new policies that are making it difficult for local jurisdictions to satisfactorily influence the outcome of dock applications.
  • Trustees should consider updating local bylaws, zoning and OCPs, posthaste.
  • The Trust as a whole should consider updating the Policy Statement to explicitly include the protection of aesthetic and recreational enjoyment of beaches, in the sections suggested above.
  • That the Trust should inform the Province that:
    • The 140 day ‘Turnaround Project’ is impossible for local authorities to administer.
    • That the Province needs to consult with those who have jurisdiction over land use before adopting such policies.
    • Beaches and coast aesthetics are important public amenities for the social, cultural and economic wellbeing and character of islands, and dock applications are complex to assess. Therefore BC should exercise their option to decline applications where they cannot be wholeheartedly supported by the local jurisdiction.
    • Public process needs to have an impact to be valid, and the Province should either consider handing the responsibility for managing that to the local jurisdiction, or change their criteria for assessment to include the public interest.
    • The Province should consider dealing with private and community docks in a  completely separate process to that with which they manage mining, forestry, aquaculture, because these procedures and policies, geared towards industry, are proving to be too blunt an instrument to manage the subtleties of the disposition of local, residential shorelines.

Edwin Lee: “build a strong sense of community”

In an article posted from the online magazine, Edwin Lee, who is currently building a giant dock across the intertidal zone at Cape Roger Curtis, explains his aspirations for the CapeOnBowen project:

“The vision for The Cape On Bowen aspires to coexist in harmony with the natural environment as we think this will build a strong sense of community as home owners share experiences unique to the area,” says Edwin Lee, president of the Leeda Developments Group, “With spectacular views, wild terrain and oceanfront, this is a very unique community.”

We urge owners at Cape Roger to keep the wild terrain and oceanfront wild. Mr. Lee, for the the strong community you desire, please Western union money order abandon the dock project and safeguard the wild coast.


Melissa Harrison: presentation to Council, May 13 2013

Melissa with sun hat and clear glasses on the beach at Cape Roger CurtisFollowing up on the meeting of May 6th, Melissa Harrison presented the following to Council.

Thank you for the opportunity to follow up with you about the docks at CRC.  We were happy to learn that Council opposes the construction of these giant docks at Cape Roger Curtis.  We would also like to thank staff for responding to requests for information.

I’d like to reiterate that we believe that the coastline there is a high quality public recreational amenity.  There’s nothing else like it on the island.  The CRC developers’ own literature promotes the value of the foreshore in its pristine state.  They call it ‘the untouched shores’ of Cape Roger Curtis.  And things like the statutory right of way and ocean fronting lands covenants confirm the value of maintaining the shore in its natural state.

To put the size of the docks in context, Judy McLeod has suggested a limit of 37sqm.  The lot 13 dock is planned to be over ONE THOUSAND sqm above that suggested limit.  If built to plan, it will be more than ELEVEN THOUSAND sqft.   The main wharf is over 295 ft long and will stand more than 23ft high at the low tide mark.  This is unlike any other private dock on Bowen or anywhere else in the region.  These extraordinary dimensions alone provide a strong rationale for this Council to give further consideration to these docks before construction proceeds.

We encourage Council to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent the construction of these or any docks in that location.  Our petition has gathered around 800 signatures since it was initiated, only a few days ago, so Council can be reassured that, for the community this is a very important issue and that the community stands behind Council in taking all steps necessary to prevent the building of the proposed docks.

We encourage you with great urgency to pass a resolution today or in a special council meeting that will instruct staff to initiate a bylaw or other action that will designate the CRC shores as a no dock zone.


Maï Yasué: Why people need nature

A review of some of the empirical evidence

by Maï Yasué, PhD

Maï Yasué is a Bowen Island resident and Tutor in Conservation and Development at Quest University Canada in Squamish, BC

One reason for leaving some wild places is that nature is good for people. The imposition of large rectilinear structures inevitably changes the experience of nature. In this outline, she looks at the scientific literature underlining how nature is good for people.

A fun book to read about this research (in case scientific papers aren’t your thing) is: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

Time spent in nature makes people smarter

  • A randomized control experiments demonstrated that walks in nature and pictures of nature restores attention and leads to better cognitive function (Berman 2008; Tenneson and Cimprich 1995 )
  • A randomized control study of women recovering after breast cancer surgery indicated that spending time in nature lead to faster recovery in their ability to direct attention (Cimprich 1993)
  • A study that relocated families from poor urban neighbourhoods to more natural areas demonstrated improvements in the attention and hyperactivity of children after they had moved to neighbourhoods with more nature (Wells 2000)
  • Children in nature-based day care facilities had better motor coordination and attention capacity than children who attended day care settings in an urban environment (Grahn et al 1997)

Nature has health benefits

Patients who had views of nature outside their window (as opposed to a brick building) experienced faster recovery from surgery and less of a need for pain killers (Ulrich 1984)

Exposure to nature leads to more caring people

A series of experiments demonstrated that exposure and immersion in nature lead to greater intrinsic motivation (doing something for the joy and reward of doing it, eg. building community, intimacy) and more generosity towards other people (Weinstein et al. 2008).

Time spent in nature for children lead to future environmental stewards

A study showed that childhood experiences in “wild nature” camping, hunting, foraging and hiking lead to positive environmental attitudes and behaviour. Although time spent in “domesticated nature” (eg. gardens) leads to positive attitudes about the environment, these experiences did not lead to pro-environmental behaviours (Wells and Lekies 2006). Further, environmental education  (eg. in elementary school) had no effect on environmental attitude or behaviour.

Nature leads to happier people

  • Children who lived near nature in rural areas had an improved ability to cope with stress in their lives (Wells and Evans 2003)
  • Girls who lived close to nature and had views of nature had  improved self-discipline (Taylor et al. 2001)
  • Women who feel more connect to nature and spend time on wilderness trips objectify their own bodies less (Scott 2010)
  • A review paper suggested that people who spend more of their time doing activities that are intrinsically motivated (see above, Weinstein et al 2008) are also happier (Kasser 2009)


Berman,M.G., Jonides, J. and Kaplan, S. 2008. The cognitive benefits
of interacting with nature. Psychological Science. 19: 1207-1212.

Cimprich, B. 1993. Development of an intervention to restore attention in cancer patients. Cancer Nursing  16: 82-93.

Kasser, T. 2009. Psychological need satisfaction, personal well-being
and ecological sustainability. Ecopsychology. 1: 175-180

Leyden, K.M. 2003. Social capital and the built environment: the
importance of walkable neighbourhoods. American Journal of Public
Health. 93(9): 1546-1551.

Scott, Babes and the Woods: Women’s objectification and the feminine beauty ideals as ecological hazards. 2010 Ecopsychology. 2: 147

Taylor, A.F., Kuo, F.E. and Sullivan, W.C. 2001. Views of nature and
self-discipline: evidence from inner city children. Journal of
Environmental Psychology 21:

Tennessen, C.M. and Cimprich, B. 1995. Views to nature: effects on
attention. Journal of Environmental Psychology 15:77-85

Ulrich, R.S. 1984. Views through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science 224:420-421.

Wells, N.M. 2000. At home with nature: effects of “greenness” on children’s cognitive functioning. Environment and Behaviour 32: 775.

Wells, N.M. and Evans,G.W. 2003. Nearby nature, a buffer of life
stress among rural children. Environment and Behaviour 35: 311-330

Wells, N.M. and Lekies,K.S. 2006. Nature and the life course: pathways from childhood nature experiences to adult environmentalism. Children, Youth and Environment 16

Weinstein,N. Przybylski,A.K. and Ryan,R.M. 2009. Can nature make us
more caring? Effects of immersion in nature on intrinsic aspirations
and generosity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.


NDP Candidate Ana Santos: “pause the process while a new government in BC has the opportunity to enter the discussion”

Dear Mayor and Council,

It has come to my attention that the construction of docks at Cape Roger Curtis has become cause of great concern for many Bowen Island residents. Changes in government are sensitive times; I’d be very grateful if BIM explored the options to hit the pause button until after the election.

If elected, I’d make it a priority to visit Bowen Island to learn about the situation from all parties involved. Given the degree of concern, I’d also need and appreciate time to look into the decisions made at the provincial level so as to be able to communicate with Bowen Island residents effectively.

I respectfully ask that Bowen Island Mayor and Council consider this request to pause the process while a new government in BC has the opportunity to enter the discussion.

ana-santos-ndpThank you very much in advance for your time and attention.


Ana Santos
NDP Candidate, West Vancouver-Sea to Sky


Councilor Stone: ‘The Cape is one of the most extended pristine natural feeding grounds for the basis of the food chain in Howe Sound.’

Councilor Andrew Stone posted this statement on the Bowen Forum. In it, he expresses a view shared by many in the community of the importance of Cape Roger Curtis and its foreshore lands and adjacent waters. However, we believe that Bowen Council and the province of British Columbia have the tools to act NOW to Stop the Docks at Cape Roger Curtis. We support Councillor Stone’s efforts to draft regulations to preserve and protect foreshore and marine shelf environments for future dock applications, and demand that these principles be applied at Cape Roger Curtis today.

As the elected representative who initiated the Dock & Moorage Bylaw review to thoroughly rewrite the existing bylaw, I must respond to the call to action to keep the Cape Roger Curtis coastline free of docks.

Some background first. Since the inception of the Islands Trust, almost 40 years ago, Bowen Island has effectively had no regulation on residential docks. The present owners of coastal property on the Cape put their moorage applications forward to get foreshore leases with the Provincial Government in that context. We, as Council, tried to negotiate on paper and in person, a solution strongly encouraging a communal dock on the leeward side of The Cape. Failing that we fully expected Fisheries, as a referral agency, to shut down their dock application requests due to the invasive nature of these proposals. To our knowledge, DFO were silent on the applications and the applications were passed on the week of September 25th without the huge floating breakwaters as part of their final proposal. The build plans for some of the docks were submitted about two weeks ago and the building of one on Lot 13 commenced the day after. I have made inquiries at several points over the past week and a half with the CAO and Planner working on the file. Site inspections have been made routinely, sometimes several times a day, to see if the dock related work was in compliance with height limitations, setbacks and so on. The construction is all within what is allowable in our Land Use Bylaw.

Shifting perspective. The most important thing for all to understand about the coast around The Cape is that it is one of the most extended pristine natural feeding grounds for the basis of the food chain in Howe Sound. It plays a fundamental role for undersea life in our region. If you look at the CRC coastline you will see the massive intertidal zone that is not only covered with mussels, as has been pointed out, but there are other elements creating ideal conditions for the basis of the aquatic life, in and about The Sound. All of this not only begets the dolphin return that we have witnessed but has created the conditions for the rockfish and glass sponge beds to thrive again. This is being celebrated by marine experts as true signs that the undersea area is undergoing a massive rehabilitation. We should be encouraging everyone living in our region towards furthering this end, be it large or small. This is our generation’s legacy to the area.

Most people focus on the success of the cleanup of Britannia Mine as being responsible for the return of the dolphins, however, it goes far beyond that with the shutting down a pulp mill, logging camps and such over the past 20 years. With the de-industrialization that has taken place in The Sound right up to Squamish, we ought to be educating others to do their part in contributing to this trend rather than working in cross purpose to it.

It would be constructive for us as the Community to educate our neighbours who have bought coastal property at The Cape, of the real significance of the coastline they inhabit and that it is part of a bigger plan. To have them see the coast and sea in front of their property through the lens of where we are regionally headed, and to live in accordance with the intertidal coastline’s ecological purpose rather than irrevocably alter it.

We should be developing a culture of voluntary stewardship on the island where people understand the benefits of living with nature rather than an engaging in an adversarial battle with people in our Community. Combative environmentalism has been left behind in most quarters in North America and replaced with the idea of leading by example and promoting stewardship. I think it’s time we do the same and start with showing the coastal property owners at The Cape of the real treasure in front of them. They ought to see that docks are inappropriate in that intertidal feed area. Let’s show others we know how to truly live on an island and treat it and its inhabitants well. Let’s communicate with them in a way that will allow them to understand the grand picture and allow them to grow into our Community rather than alienating them through adversarial engagement.

We, as elected officials, will develop the policy and approvals around a rewrite of our Land Use Bylaw as it pertains to our foreshore and marine shelf around Bowen for future dock applications. However, with the present circumstances it will require different tools to maintain a semblance of appropriateness on our sensitive shoreline and undersea world around our island. Appealing to the humanity of the situation would be a good start and let’s work together to make that happen.

-Andrew Stone

Bowen Island Municipal Councillor
May 5, 2013


Doug Hooper: Open letter to Bowen Islanders and concerned citizens

Re: Docks at Cape Roger Curtis

April 30, 2013

The desecration of Cape Roger Curtis continued apace this past weekend. The high winds in the Strait of Georgia, while neither uncommon nor extreme, were sufficient to dislodge the temporary concrete forms and cast wood debris along the shoreline. It was not at all surprising that the northwest winds and four foot waves would present a challenge to constructing (or using) a dock facility at Bowen’s land’s end. (see photos here)

It is very surprising, however, given the scale and raw impact of the marina-sized docks that they have been granted approval by Bowen Council and senior governments. Now that the works have begun, you can see that the first wharf at the Cape will cover an expanse of over 100 meters, before it evens finds the low tide waterline. From there, the breakwaters, ramp and docks will obstruct and destroy the natural aesthetic looking out to the Strait and Vancouver Island (not to mention impacts on the wintering bird habitat). The footings and wharf structure will bisect Bowen’s only accessible tidal pool shoreline, cutting thoughtlessly through deep mussel beds and sensitive marine habitat. While these are public lands, belonging to all British Columbians, these docks will permanently impair traditional public use and enjoyment of the foreshore.

It is time to take action to preserve the recreational access and foreshore environment at Cape Roger Curtis. Promises made by Bowen Council that it would protect our beaches and sensitive marine habitats have yielded no results. Bowen Council has failed to properly zone and control unfettered destruction Western union money transfer of this precious shoreline. The governments of British Columbia and Canada have failed to properly assess the impacts in allowing these docks to proceed. How did DFO uphold one rigourous study and approval process for the municipal Tunstall Bay boat ramp, then turn a blind eye to the far greater impacts of the docks at the Cape? The Islands Trust Council has failed to uphold its fundamental object – these lands and waters are precisely what they are charged to ‘preserve and protect.’ Our governments have the power to reverse these failures, stop the work and prevent the dock insanity from destroying the Cape Roger Curtis shoreline.

It comes to this – we need to speak out and call on the next government of British Columbia to save Cape Roger Curtis. Bowen Islanders should demand that Bowen Council oppose and stop dock construction at the Cape, and enforce the existing land covenants. Ask your elected representatives to act now – use the contact links below.

Let’s leave a different legacy at the Cape – keep it natural.

Doug Hooper
Bowen Island, BC