The Ladysmith business community is missing out on opportunities to both attract visiting boaters and service the ones who are here, according to members of the Ladysmith Yacht Club.
“Ladysmith is the northern entrance to the Gulf Islands. It should be a destination port because it’s protected, it’s got great docks — [but] that’s all they’ve got,” said Richard Kinar, who advocates for more amenities for small craft owners.
He says not a lot has changed on the waterfront in the past year except the size of Dog Patch, an anchorage near the Heritage Marina where many boats are kept as live-aboard vessels.
David Grimstead, Commodore of the Ladysmith Yacht Club, estimates it costs average small craft boat owners $6,000 annually to moor and maintain a boat in Ladysmith. “We have got a thousand boats here, so we have six million dollars before anyone even starts an engine,” he said. He and Kinar agree more amenities for boaters would further stimulate the local economy.
Two big problems for boaters is the lack of a fuel dock and limited access to sewage pump out. Kinar said Ladysmith could benefit from a mobile sewer pump-out service, as the one at Ladysmith Maritime Society (LMS) can be inconvenient to get to and busy. This can force people to go outside Ladysmith and dump into the sea.
Kinar said he believes many business and development opportunities have been missed due to a lack of support from the municipal government, the worst of which is a fuel dock. Boaters currently have to carry fuel to the docks or travel out of the community to fill up their boats. Many go to Thetis Island or Nanaimo just to fuel up. Kinar said many owners also leave the community for service and repairs.
“Along with the fuel dock comes the prosperity of all of the other things,” he said. Access to fuel would attract travelling boaters who would spend money in other parts of the community on groceries and supplies.
Another barrier he is frustrated by is access to downtown from the waterfront and marinas for people travelling without a vehicle. “For any community that has become a successful waterfront community there is always either a boardwalk or a way of accessing the waterfront,” he said.
These features are included in the town’s Waterfront Concept Plan, part of the Waterfront Area Plan adopted by town council in 2018. It includes a waterfront walkway and pedestrian bridge over the Trans Canada Highway, but since it was adopted, Kinar said he has seen little action from the town implementing the plan.
Grimstead has been a representative for the waterfront and boating community on town committees but said he often feels ignored. Though the town is not responsible for the business community expanding services on the water, he said there are things it can do to support growth. “They can create the zoning, the property and an environment that invites investment.”
“The current mayor and council and past councils have ignored what I would say is the heritage of the community, meaning the waterfront part,” Kinar said. Adding many residents are detached from what goes on at the waterfront. “All we are interested in, the thousand or so small craft boat owners in the area that represent a huge economic opportunity for the residents of Ladysmith is [that people know] we are here, don’t ignore us,” Kinar said.