Dear Director Brabazon and the qathet Regional Board,
(cc: MLA Nicholas Simons, RCMP, MOTI, SIVFD)
Public safety ranks as one of the top priorities of the qathet Strategic Plan. This letter is an appeal to the qathet Regional Board to work with the Powell River RCMP and the Ministry of Transportation to re-examine their approach to public safety on Savary Island.
The rate of growth on Savary Island is accelerating. At the peak of the summer season, the population of Savary has been estimated to exceed 3,000, making it the second most populated area within the qRD.
This year of COVID-19 seems to have accelerated the increase in the numbers of people and vehicles coming to this small island. More seasonal property owners are spending more time here, and more tourists are visiting. The rate of new construction is brisk. Savary Island is a beautiful part of the qRD and will continue to attract more visitors and residents into the future.
While this growth cannot and should not be discouraged, it must be better managed, particularly in the area of public safety. We see the immediate threats to public safety in three categories: emergency response, road safety, and public health.
Although Savary Island is well served by a competent volunteer fire department and skilled first responders, their effectiveness is hampered by poor roads. Getting injured and ill patients quickly from Savary Island to hospital care is often a challenge. The wharf and the road accesses to helicopter evacuation points need to be improved to ensure that they are able to accommodate the Coast Guard and Air Ambulance in all weather and at all times of day and night.
For example, emergency vehicles are currently unable to reliably access the southwest medivac site in all weather due to a primitive and poorly maintained section of Herchmer Road. What is needed is the leadership of the qRD and cooperation of MOTI. This is a small project but essential to the safety of both residents and visitors and a project where we need the leadership of our local government.
The qRD is urged to use their authority and resources to address the public safety deficiencies identified by their Savary Island volunteer fire fighters and first responders.
Although Savary is becoming more popular and populous, the infrastructure on island has not kept up. The main road is old, narrow, dusty, pot-holed and poorly maintained. The secondary roads are a series of primitive tracks from the main road to the many cabins in the woods and meadows of Savary. Other than trails through private property, there is no continuous safe route for pedestrians and cyclists to get around the island so they must share the road with UTV’s, golf carts, scooters, and full-sized vehicles, many of which are uninsured, unlicensed, or driven illegally by underage drivers, or impaired drivers.
This past summer’s increase in visitors saw a corresponding increase in traffic, sometimes creating scenes of vehicle convoys, cyclists and pedestrians travelling to and from the wharf. Due to COVID-19 and Lund parking shortages many residents and visitors opted to bring over a vehicle that in the past they would leave on the mainland.
The last traffic counts taken on Savary were in 2014-2015. We suggest that it is time for another look at traffic counts. The road system on Savary Island needs a professional assessment with the goal of providing a safe and efficient transportation system that will accommodate all users of the roads.
Savary also desperately needs regular policing during the four months of summer to change the relaxed attitude towards impaired driving and the operation of unlicensed and uninsured vehicles.
Only the qRD working with other levels of government has the influence and resources to improve this chaotic and dangerous transportation system.
At present Savary has no public washrooms. While a few visitors defecating in the woods has not presented serious problems (unless the woods are in front of your cabin) the large groups now visiting for the day and needing a washroom do present a serious threat to public health. Savary Island is widely promoted as a tourist attraction (tourism sites, Savary B&Bs, Airbnb, etc) and large groups of visitors are answering that call. While tourists are valued as sources of new revenue, facilities to meet their basic needs should be provided for their comfort and for the protection of public health.
Savary Islanders are rightly proud of the spirit of self-help and self-reliance that has existed for over the 100 years on Savary. It has a volunteer fire service, and volunteer first responders. The rough-cut roads, wharf hill and three fire halls were all conceived and built largely by volunteers. But the problems identified above cannot be solved by volunteers alone.
We ask that the qRD use their authority and connections with other government agencies to address the public safety challenges presented by Savary Island’s continued growth.
Association of the Savary Island Committee
Mike Edwards, Chair – ASIC Public Safety Subcommittee
Doug Smith and Doug Dalzell – ASIC Public Safety Subcommittee
Lisa Jackson – ASIC President
Jo Kidsada, Lenore Rankin and Troy Vassos – ASIC Directors