Federal MP Wai Young

Public boat launch officially opened

Three levels of government made Sooke boat launch happen

Sharron Ho

Sooke News Mirror

The opening ceremony of the Sooke Boat Launch on March 23, was dampened by the recent announcement of potential fishing restrictions on chinook salmon during the summer in the Juan De Fuca Strait.

The occasion entailed the unveiling of a plaque, congratulatory remarks from political dignitaries and a ribbon cutting, but the day seemed “redundant” for Ken Hales.

Hales started the original petition for a public boat launch with his brother four years ago, gathering approximately 700 signatures. His boat was launched into the water for the opening ceremony.

Although Hales joined the festivities, the idea of celebrating a public boat launch in light of the tentative fishing restrictions in the area was not ideal.

“I almost didn’t come today,” he said. “It’s redundant. I don’t even want to think about what’s going to happen.”

Hales said the recent announcement from the Department of Ocean and Fisheries would negatively impact local commercial businesses as Sooke relies heavily on the tourism boom that happens during the summer months — tourists who tend to be on fishing trips.

“The future looks really, quite bleak here,” he said.

The same concerns were shared by Mayor Wendal Milne, who was also present at the opening ceremony, along with Councillors Kerrie Reay and Rick Kasper.

“The closure of fishing is a real problem for Sooke. I mean there’s so many businesses — charter business, bed and breakfasts, community businesses — that depend on people coming to fish,” Milne said. “A lot of the boat use is fishing, it’s not just an out cruising kind of thing,” he said.

But Milne said the looming restrictions does not nullify the need for a public boat launch.

Political dignitaries, MP Wai Young on behalf of Minister Lynne Yelick, Western Economic Diversification and Minister Ida Chong, Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, were present to congratulate the Sooke community on the recent infrastructure addition.

“It’s always rewarding to visit local communities and to see first hand the tangible results from our government investments,” Young said.

The boat launch, located behind the Best Western Prestige Oceanfront Resort, was funded through a partnership with the federal, provincial and municipal government in a program called the Building Canada Fund. The federal and provincial government cumulatively provided $605,000 of the estimated $1.84-million cost.

The total cost of the boat launch is still being calculated, but the District of Sooke funded $635,000, and $200,000 was provided by the Prestige Hotel with an additional $500,000 from “in kind” donations.

Sooke currently has two privately owned boat launches at Sunny Shores and Jock’s Dock. There is also Sooke Harbour Marina, which is a moorage launch.

The public boat launch was officially open to everyone on Nov. 1, 2011.