The larger MV Klitsa replaced the MV Mill Bay last month.

The larger MV Klitsa replaced the MV Mill Bay last month.

Mill Bay Ferry route safe

BC Ferries holds on to the beautiful little shortcut

Krista Siefken

Black Press

The Brentwood ferry can expect smooth sailing ahead.

The route to Mill Bay was under threat in recent months, with BC Ferries examining its costs and mulling cost-saving options.

But the recent release of the BC Ferry’s Commission annual report confirms the local route is not on the chopping block.

“We’re relieved,” said Pam Alcorn, who’s been campaigning to save the ferry along with the other members of the Save the Mill Bay Ferry group.

“Myself and the members of the ferry committee are feeling very optimistic about the future, especially given the upgrade and investment made in the terminals and the new vessel.”

That investment was more than $5 million spent on readying the Mill Bay and Brentwood Bay terminals for the MV Klitsa — which replaced the MV Mill Bay earlier this year — as well as on the Klitsa itself.

“BC Ferries is also going to establish a ferry advisory committee for this route, which bodes well for the future, and we welcome that idea,” Alcorn added.

Save the Ferry campaigners have been advocating for the route for months, highlighting a need for options when the Malahat is closed, for seniors who dislike driving the busy highway, for tourists who want a more scenic view while on the island, and for the small businesses that rely on the service.

“It looks like it’s going to be recognized as a vital service, because obviously people use it and need it, and even though the ferry can’t handle all of the traffic created when the Malahat is closed, at least arrangements can be made for those who have to get to the other side,” Alcorn said. “BC Ferries has worked really well (during Malahat closures) at checking the line-ups to see if anyone is in an emergency situation — such as having to catch a flight or make a medical appointment that’s been booked for months — so that at least people who have to access the province’s capital from the rest of the island can make it.”

BC Ferries’ public affairs manager, Darin Guenette, said Ferries hopes to have the new advisory committee in place for Jan. 1, 2012.

Ferry advisory committees operate in three-year terms that coincide with B.C. municipal government terms.