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Kiteboarders petition to save access to Squamish launch site
SQUAMISH -- Access to a world-renowned kiteboarding mecca for adrenaline junkies is under threat.
The Squamish Spit is a man-made berm originally built in the early 1970s as a coal port that never developed. Over the years, it became a well-known launch site for kite surfing, attracting thousands of people annually.
But changes may be coming to the Spit, because the local Chinook salmon population has plummeted since it was originally constructed.
The structure prevented the salmon from reaching the estuary flood plain and instead, the young fish were being moved directly from the river to the ocean which diminished their survival, according to the Squamish River Watershed Society.
“They’re just not prepared for the salinity for the water yet,” said executive director Edith Tobe.
She said without having spent any time in the estuary, the salmon wouldn’t know to return there.
“Out of hundreds of thousands of fish that we know that are swimming out from the Cheakamus River, maybe less than a dozen have made it through, in our studies, across into the estuary,” she explained.
In 2017, the society received $1.5 million over five years to enhance access to the estuary and improve the Chinook population.
The group constructed nine culverts – in addition to two that the federal government originally built in 1994 – to create a better passage for the fish.
Studies and discussions are now underway to look into removing one-kilometre of the Squamish Spit while leaving the launch site, essentially creating an island.
Rebecca Aldous, a local kiteboarder, started a petition to bring attention to the situation.
“We wanted to make the public aware of what’s going on. This is not about us not wanting to remove the Spit; this is about us wanting to maintain access for the greater community,” she said.
Aldous said she supports efforts to boost the salmon population, but she wants to ensure kiteboarders will still have a way to get to their launch site.
“If it's an island, it's not accessible to the whole community. What we're left with is people kayaking here, boats coming here, jet skis coming here, maybe a water taxi. But it's not accessible, in reality, it's accessible to few,” she said.
Tobe said she was blindsided when she learned about the petition, since they are in discussions with the local watersports community.
“I'm very surprised, and it's very reactionary," she said of the petition. "We don't know what the plans are. It’s making a lot of assumptions, that petition, that may or may not be realized. It’s making an assumption that the road is going to be removed."
Aldous said she knows nothing is officially on the table, but she wants to ensure the kiteboarders' voices are being heard.
She said if the road is gone, she hopes governments will consider building another berm from a nearby shipping terminal to the launch site, allowing safe access.
As of Sunday, the petition has nearly reached its goal of 2,500 signatures.