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Vancouver paddlers say new restrictions on waters off Stanley Park go too far

Click to play video: 'Confusion over kayak ban in waters off Stanley Park' Confusion over kayak ban in waters off Stanley Park
WATCH: Vancouver kayakers accuse the port authority of trying to limit access to some of the waters off Stanley Park. But officials with the port say kayakers will benefit from the only changes to the existing rules. Aaron McArthur wades into this story – Oct 6, 2017

Whether you’re in a kayak, a canoe, or on a paddle board, everyone can agree a trip past Vancouver’s Third Beach and the iconic Siwash Rock is hard to beat for its gorgeous sights.

But new restrictions on those waters proposed by the Port of Vancouver could make such trips a thing of the past.

The Port says too many paddlers are sneaking their way out into the shipping lanes within the First Narrows, which has forced the authority to enforce a ban on those waters to human-powered vessels — including the shallow waters directly off the coast of Stanley Park.

To paddlers, that’s a step too far.

“If anyone takes the trouble to look on a chart… the water there is five metres [deep] or less,” Phillip Torrens of the Eco Marine Paddlesports Centre said.
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“There’s no reason why any freighter or cruise ship is ever going to want to be in there anyway. If they do get in there, they’re going to have other concerns [beyond] mixing it up with kayakers.”

The Port of Vancouver said restrictions have always been in place for the First Narrows, but weren’t heavily enforced, which allowed paddlers to explore the shoreline around Stanley Park.

Under the proposed restrictions, everything is off-limits within the area from Ferguson Point to West Vancouver, east to a boundary that stretches from Burnaby Shoal to the edge of Fibreco Dock in North Vancouver.

In a written comment addressed to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Mike Cotter of the Jericho Sailing Centre Association argues the restrictions would take away areas that have been used by paddlers “for thousands of years.”

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The statement also says the relationship with the Port is one of mutual respect that should be kept that way.

READ MORE: Near-miss accident between boat and freighter in Burrard Inlet prompts warning

“Respecting port traffic operations is the responsibility of every recreational skipper who operates a water craft in the Vancouver area,” Cotter wrote.

“Respecting recreational watercraft users’ right to access this popular, commercially unnavigable [sic] area of the Stanley Park shoreline is the Port of Vancouver’s responsibility.”

The Port declined an in-person interview with Global News, but commented that the new rules would actually benefit paddlers by potentially freeing up some of the restricted zones around English Bay and the Burrard Inlet.

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But the statement has done little to sway paddling enthusiasts who say the proposals are an example of massive overreach.

“[It] seems analogous to if 18-wheelers were having trouble getting over the Lion’s Gate Bridge, we wouldn’t put a ban on Stanley Park saying, ‘Bikes shall not go on the seawall,'” Torrens said.

READ MORE: At 61 metres, the Lions Gate Bridge is too low for new cruise ships to fit under

Cotter with Jericho Sailing said a proposal has been sent to the port by the Hollyburn Sailing Club, suggesting the southern border of the restricted zone be set at a line due west of Prospect Point.

Hollyburn argues that would keep the channel clear for ships while keeping areas like Ferguson Point and Siwash Rock open to paddlers.

The port has been accepting public comments that it says will influence whether the proposed amendments are adopted. The last day for comments is Sunday, Oct. 8.

For more information on the amendments, and on how to send in comments, visit the Port of Vancouver’s web page on the changes.

With files from Aaron McArthur

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