West Van removes houseboat watchdog position for Horseshoe Bay Pier

Published online: Apr 30, 2011 News Rebecca Aldous - North Shore Outlook
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West Vancouver is getting rid of Horseshoe Bay Pier's caretaker, a move some say could hamper emergency operations.

Since the federal government handed its piers to the district 10 years ago, Horseshoe Bay resident Billy Lord has been the watchdog of the municipality's wharfs. He makes sure users don't disregard regulations - such as time and weight limits on docks - and writes up monthly reports on the structures' conditions.

For his service, the district granted Lord space for his houseboat, which is also his office, on the Horseshoe Bay Pier. But that's no longer the case.

In March, Lord was handed a notice that his services weren't needed and his houseboat must be relocated by May 31. The district and West Van's Coast Guard Auxiliary are eying the pier as a potential moorage site for the unit's new boat.

While the auxiliary would be a nice addition to the pier, it won't replace 24/7 surveillance, Lord warned. During a summer day up to 400 people visit the dock, a pier that's also used when transporting emergency cases from areas such as Bowen Island to the mainland.

On average, 350 emergency cases travel over the pier per year, he noted. It's imperative to make sure that no matter how busy, there is always a docking space for emergency boats, Lord said.

"It is not about me, it is about safety of the pier," he said. "The truth is you have to have somebody down there 24/7."

Besides ensuring that emergency vessels and vehicles can access the pier, Lord regulates the amount of weight safely permitted on it. Living in the harbour allows him to look over all the boats at night, Lord said. It also prevents vandalism and dangerous activities.

"Kids sometimes try and build bonfires underneath the pier," said Lord, who prior to his role with the district was harbour master in Horseshoe Bay for 30 years.

Keeping a spot open for emergency services day and night is an essential part of the ambulance service to Bowen Island, said Brian Biddlecombe, owner of the Howe Sound water taxi Cormorant Marine. The water taxi alone transfers more than 160 cases to first responders at the pier, he said, noting other Howe Sound islands use the pier for the same purpose.

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