File photo The last regular White Rock Canadian Open Sandcastle competition was held in 1987.

White Rock sandcastle plans ‘would likely not be authorized’ on the waterfront

Initial provincial reaction emphasizes envionmental concerns

Even if White Rock’s Canadian Open Sandcastle Competition can be revived for a 40th anniversary event in 2019, it’s likely environmental concerns will dictate an event much scaled-back from the scope the public contest reached in the 1980s.

Latest word from provincial authorities suggests such an event might use trucked-in sand in an environmentally safe area, rather than staging it on the open shore as happened in the past.

“Events of this nature would likely not be authorized within the (Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area), in order to maintain and protect the values for which the WMA was created,” Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development regional executive director Allan Johnsrude writes in a July 9 letter to Mayor Wayne Baldwin.

The White Rock Events Society, which successfully resurrected the now city-run Sea Festival four years ago, appeared before council in June to request for city support for a sandcastle competition reboot.

But Johnsrude’s letter appears to confirm that securing provincial authorization may make the competition a harder prospect to achieve than in days gone by.

The letter, part of council’s agenda for Monday’s (July 23) meeting, is a response to the society proposal, forwarded by Baldwin.

Johnsrude notes that the information package provided by the society is “insufficient to determine exactly which provincial authorizations may be required,” and that a map showing the location of the proposed event would be necessary to determine whether a Crown Land Authorization is needed.

He also notes that the Boundary Bay WMA has been established since the last regular competition event was held in 1987.

“Any activities (particularly of this size) within the WMA would require approval by the Fish and Wildlife Regional Manager as per the Wildlife Act.”

While giving a generally favourable reception to the society’s request, council members and staff had already warned that the environmental concerns of provincial authorities – and such key local stakeholders as Semiahmoo First Nation and the Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society – might pose serious obstacles to revival of the competition.

Baldwin, in particular, counselled the society to “start off a little smaller and don’t try to replicate what the sandcastle competition was in its heyday.”

Johnsrude’s letter does offer some hope – and a suggestion – for a White Rock sandcastle competition, however.

“Similar events in other areas reportedly utilize sand imported for the purpose to locations that minimize impacts,” he writes.

“I understand that a sand castle competition located in Parksville is held in a municipal park using sand that is trucked in, rather than the adjacent WMA.”

– More to come

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