It took years of pestering governments and a dozen volunteers with shovels — and a blowtorch, an excavator and massive steel bins — to rid Cadboro Bay beach of derelict boats on Saturday.
“We’ve been battling at this for a long time,” said Eric Dahli, chairman of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association.
“This is a great day to finally see this happen.”
Six derelict boats were removed from the beach, ranging from small fiberglass and plastic vessels to large rusting steel boats that had to be broken down or dragged off. All were about 20 to 30 feet in length, and some had been there for years.
Dahli said the recent push to get the boats off the beach near Gyro Park started last year, when two boats came ashore leaking diesel and full of garbage. One had a hypodermic needle in it.
“Saanich ponied up and gave up some funds to get rid of them, so we looked down the beach on the Oak Bay side and wanted to do more,” Dahli said. A spring cleanup yielded nearly five tonnes of garbage.
“These boats are dangerous here, especially for kids who want to play pirate,” he said. “I don’t want my grandson playing in them.”
Dahli said his group partnered with John Roe from the Veins of Life Watershed Society to form the Dead Boat Society and lobby for funds to remove the boats.
The vessels fall under federal jurisdiction, but it was the province that agreed, in this case, to contribute $12,000 for the clean up. Oak Bay pitched in with $4,000 and in-kind services.
“The problem is this has been very confusing with who has jurisdiction and responsibility,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, who dropped by the cleanup on Saturday morning. “But it’s great for the environment and community to get this done.”
Abandoned and unsafe vessels and wrecks are under overlapping federal, provincial and municipal jurisdictions, depending on the tide lines.
Roe, a veteran of derelict boat cleanups around the region, said he reached out to offer his help and expertise.
“This is the fifth beach I’ve done and what I find everywhere is that we have more urbanization with no plan to address these kinds of issues or maintenance to keep our ecosystems healthy,” he said.
“The amount of plastics in some of these boats is the same as about 600,000 shopping bags.”
Roe said the boats have all been stripped and abandoned and there is currently no system to track or penalize the owners. The ones removed from the beach will be recycled or taken to the landfill.
Derelict boats are an issue in every coastal community, he said. Roe said he is creating an inventory of derelict boats around the Island and estimates there are about 500 in all.
The City of Victoria is expected to be in court this month to seek a court order to remove 16 boats and four docks from the Gorge waterway. It claims the boats and docks are in violation of a bylaw.
Dahli said the next project in Cadboro Bay will be to get rid of the derelict boats floating in the water.
He pointed out three decrepit runabouts just offshore that he said were tied to buoys by the coast guard.
He said the vessels are just a storm away from ending up as more garbage on the beach.
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