Marine users group pusing for Pat Bay boat launch

Brian Dunic hopes to convince the powers-that-be to open existing boat ramp to public use.

The boat launch at Sidney’s Tulista Park is becoming so heavily used that proponents of a second launch on the Saanich Peninsula are pushing for one at Pat Bay in North Saanich.

When the weather is good on the weekends, the boat launch at Sidney’s Tulista Park can sometimes fill up fast.

It’s for that reason a group of residents in North Saanich — and elsewhere on the Saanich Peninsula — are angling for a new, public facility.

And they’re hoping they can convince others that it should go at Pat Bay.

Leading the way is Brian Dunic, the chair of the Peninsula Marine Access Group. He has written letters to, and met with, members of North Saanich District council, asking they support a boat launch facility where one had been promised years ago. He says, however, he is running into a jurisdictional nightmare.

The land in question belongs, in part, to the province and federal government. It’s also overseen by the Victoria Airport Authority — and falls within the boundaries of the District of North Saanich.

Despite making similar requests for a boat launch — and watching other people do so since the late 1980s — Dunic said no one official organization has picked up the ball.

“I’m a former (North Saanich) councillor, I was on council from ‘88 to ‘93. A boat ramp committee was formed then, based on the need. Pat Bay already has a ramp and there was at one time a verbal agreement with Transport Canada.”

Dunic said that deal was rescinded in 1991 or ‘92, “and nothing’s happened since.”

No longer a councillor, Dunic said some of his friends suggested to try again, especially as the only other public ramp — at Tulista Park — was heavily used and causing parking problems on residential streets.

Dunic has made presentations to the current council and said he has followed their actions, such as meeting with the Victoria Airport Authority and council’s more recent vote to set up meetings with provincial and federal ministers on the subject.

Dunic said various reasons have been stated for why there’s not been a public boat ramp at Pat Bay in recent years. Top of the list, he said, is the safety issue between boaters and float planes which use the area. As well, there’s potential conflict with the airport’s main runway.

Dunic said, based on the experience at Victoria’s Inner Harbour, he thinks any conflict between users could be easily resolved.

However, he admitted he’s not sure what it’s going to take to see a public boat ramp in Pat Bay.

“It shouldn’t cost a lot of money. The ramp is there — all they’d need is the parking.

“It’s really needed. Tulista is really the only usable boat launch north of Oak Bay.”