Thursday, November 01, 2007


Oceanside prides itself on the fact that it is located along some of the finest beaches in British Columbia. People from around the world come here to enjoy the coastline and many of them retire here after multiple vacations. As a result the population is growing rapidly and demands on the shoreline have increased.

Parksville Beach has changed a great deal since I graduated from high school. Over time pavement, fences, grass fields, and blasted rock have taken over from the natural aquatic grass and sand. A hovercraft, operating from the coast guard station at the end of the point, regularly drove out over a flat beach at low tide and launched itself into the water. Today a massive gravel bar has emerged just off shore from this same point.

According to some experts the erosion of the Parkville’s shoreline may be the result of tidal and storm pressures being deflected into the bay by this large gravel bar. As a result the city has installed sections of blasted rock to prevent the paved road from being washed away. The City of Parksville is considering more changes to the shoreline in an attempt to stop this type of erosion.

The main change to that section of coastline is the massive blasted rock causeway built by Surfside RV Resort, dividing the Englishman River Estuary Floodplains from the Strait of Georgia. Man made changes to the natural coastline effect the flow of water by redirecting tidal and storm surges. All along the coast private land owners have installed dikes, concrete walls, and other barricades in order to alter the natural erosion of the shoreline.

An area known as the ‘Queen’s Land’ along all waterways was once protected from development but today it is very easy to obtain a license which allows property owners to alter the coast. Governments at all levels have abandoned the protection of the shoreline in exchange for increased tax revenue from expensive waterfront properties. However, there remains a legal right of way along all waterways which is accessible to the general public which can not legally be blockaded by private property owners because the ‘Queen’s land’ belongs to all citizens of Canada.

In September the Stewardship Centre for British Columbia announced that it had been awarded a grant of $100,000 by the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia for the Green Shores sustainability project. With a focus on social and economic development, the Green Shores Project aims to promote healthy coast and marine ecosystems by planning a design while working to benefit the environmental. It provides positive examples for property owners, developers and design professionals to address environmental and sustainability issues associated with increased waterfront development. Unfortunately, as a non-profit society it cannot enforce it’s recommendations but does provide information and tools to assess shoreline property and habitat protection.

“The need for sustainable approaches to waterfront development in the Georgia Basin and Strait of Georgia is accentuated by unprecedented residential and commercial growth,” said Project Coordinator Patrick Walshe. “Frequently we try to immobilize shorelines with cookie cutter solutions, yet too often this destabilizes the shore and its ecosystems, jeopardizing our coastal resources as well as the beauty and character of our coastal communities. There are many green alternatives in our tool kit, which can be catered to solve site specific issues more effectively.”

The project team will help to educate land managers, designers, planners, developers and builders working on ocean front development on Vancouver Island and the Georgia Basin, in an effort to develop alternative design concepts.
For more information visit the Green Shores website at

1 comment:

esker said...

Sand Castles

Plum Island is one of the nicest barrier beaches in Massachusetts. There are many fine homes on the Island; all of them at risk due to the natural motions of barrier beaches.

Building a home on a barrier beach is just like building a sand castle. Some barrier beaches in Massachusetts move hundreds of feet in a century. Some have holes or breaches punched through them in a single storm. Any home built on a barrier beach is in jeopardy from wind, waves, storms and ordinary erosion. It is just a matter of time before the beach moves and the home is lost.

No barrier beach is a safe place for substantial real estate investment.

Plum Island has provided heart wrenching pictures and interviews recently as homes built in harms way were washed away. I was greatly saddened by all of the coverage, but especially the interviews.

The town later bulldozed beach sand to reinforce the eroding dune against further catastrophic erosion. This was an attempt to save other homes that might be in imminent danger. As a former Coastal Zone regulator, I know that bulldozing sand is a very short term solution. Moving sand around on the beach may also change distant erosion patterns for the worse.

How can agencies and towns better help the public understand the dangers of building in areas like Plum Island?

Michael E. Penney

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