A pilot project aimed at regulating paddleboard and kayak rentals in Crescent Beach has drawn the ire of local rental companies that have been forced from the area.
The project went into effect this summer and allows just one vendor, Squamish-based Sea to Sky Adventure Company, to rent paddleboards and kayaks to beach-goers.
The City of Surrey cites safety concerns as the main reason for the change, which has left a handful of local companies out of the water.
There have not been any recent incidents surrounding the local paddleboard and kayaking scene, Coun. Barinder Rasode said, but added that the city wants “to get out in front of the issue.”
“We like to do our due diligence on these things,” she told Peace Arch News Friday.
The operator of one local rental company disputes the idea that the recent change is driven by safety concerns, instead suggesting the project is financially driven.
“If it really is for safety, well this (industry) has been operating down here for 20 years, so I just don’t buy it,” said Mike Bjorge.
Bjorge, owner of Surrey-based 108 SUP Works, noted his company had all the necessary insurance as well as Paddle Canada certification.
“They basically just picked the company that would give them the most money and then disallowed the rest of us any access to the water. It’s a monopoly.”
While not disclosing the exact details of why Sea to Sky Adventures was chosen to operate in the area, Tim Neufeld, the City of Surrey’s acting manager of parks, said the company met a number of criteria, including financial requirements and liability insurance.
“For this pilot project, it just made the most sense,” he said.
According to both Rasode and Neufeld, city staff examined how other cities – namely White Rock and Vancouver – handle the same issue, before launching the pilot.
Bjorge also took issue with the city’s enforcement. Earlier this month, after he was ticketed $200 for operating in Blackie Spit, he moved his operation down the beach where, he says, he was met with three bylaw officers who presented him with a pre-written ticket.
“They told me they didn’t know exactly why they were there to give it to me but that they were just doing their jobs,” he said.
Bjorge, a member of the Surrey Sailing Club operating out of Blackie Spit, also claims the city threatened to pull the club’s lease if 108 SUP Works signs remained on its building.
“The enforcement has just been extreme,” Bjorge said.
Bjorge questioned why the city would hurt businesses, adding he doubts out-of-town vendors have as much knowledge of the local waters as he and other operators.
Rasode said it’s “not at all our intention” to shut down any businesses, and that the project would be reviewed at the end of its run in the fall of 2014.
At that time, she said, it’s possible that the project will be opened up to more vendors.
“It’s definitely a difficult situation, but we’ve heard loud and clear from them,” Rasode said, when asked about the reaction from companies such as Bjorge’s.
Peace Arch News’ attempts to reach other rental companies in the area were unsuccessful.