PORT McNEILL—Residents of Alert Bay will be able to drive their automobiles on Cormorant Island or on Vancouver Island throughout the month of April.
But it’s an either-or proposition.
As part of a series of major terminal upgrades throughout its coastal ferry system, BC Ferries will close the Alert Bay ferry dock April 8, the Regional District of Mount Waddington’s transportation advisory committee was told last week by Marnie Crowe, co-chair of the local Tri-Island Ferry Commission.
Cormorant Island will then be served by a combination of water taxi and barge until the dock is reopened April 28.
“The big debate is where people are going to leave their cars,” said Jo Mrozewski, the commission’s other co-chair and a resident of Cormorant Island. “We’ve been telling people that Sunday, April 7, at 8:20 p.m., is the last time we’re going to see the (ferry) Quadra Queen II until April 28. If you want to take your car over to Port McNeill, that’s the last chance.”
Two parking areas in Port McNeill — one on Beach Drive across the street from the harbour lot, below Rona/Shoprite, and one between Port McNeill Post Office and the CIBC branch on McNeill Avenue — have been set aside for Alert Bay motorists who choose to leave their vehicles on the big island, and for those traveling by water taxi from Port McNeill to Alert Bay.
Parking is free for those who qualify, but passes must be picked up at the BC Ferries ticket booth at the Port McNeill ferry dock.
The ferry dock upgrades in Alert Bay are the first in a series scheduled at each of the Tri-Island ferries ports, with Port McNeill scheduled for construction in 2014 and Sointula in 2015.
“For three straight Aprils we’re going to see these dock closures on the North Island,” said Mrozewski. “The construction actually lasts for months, but BC Ferries needs the docks completely shut down for three weeks.”
Sailings of the ferry Quadra Queen II between Port McNeil and Sointula will continue as normally scheduled during the Alert Bay dock closure.
Construction on the Alert Bay ferry dock began in January and is scheduled for completion in June.
Foot passengers traveling between Alert Bay and Port McNeill during the closure will be served by the Lukwa, a 45-passenger vessel, with support as needed by the 25-passenger Tenacious III. Sailings will be at the regular BC Ferries scheduled sailing times between the communities, though in cases of overload delays may be encountered for passengers awaiting a return sailing by the Lukwa or supplementary sailing by Tenacious III.
Shipping of large and volume goods by truck, including suppliers like ShopRite and Island Foods, will be done by barge, but the barge will not be available for personal passenger vehicles, Mrozewski said.
“As you can imagine, there have been a lot of rumours and misinformation,” she said. “BC Ferries has been doing their best to answer everyone’s questions. (The Tri-Island commission) had our first meeting on this issue in October, and another meeting in January.
“I think we’re as prepared as we can get.”
A big bash, including a visit by the head of BC Transit, is on tap this summer as Mount Waddington Transit celebrates the five-year anniversary of the start of its local bus service.
North Island Community Social Services, which administers the local transit service, has scheduled the anniversary party for July 2 at Port McNeill’s Gate House Community Theatre.
“I think it’s going to be a great day,” said Mary Mavis of NICSS. “I’m looking forward to it. And I know the youth are.”
A short film will be made of the event for BC Transit TV, and its marketing department has contributed funds to offset the cost of printing posters and bus placards promoting the anniversary celebration, Mavis said.
The money will be welcome, said Regional District of Mount Waddington transportation director Liette Patterson, who was somewhat concerned by the costs of printing requested by BC Transit.
“We have a $5,000 marketing budget that we can only access through BC Transit,” Patterson said. “We’ve never maxed it out yet, but I was a little disappointed when I saw the cost they were asking.”