SIDNEY -- The scheduled closure of the Tulista boat launch by the Town of Sidney has been narrowly averted, due to a partnership with the Sidney Anglers Association.

A recent appeal to boaters by the Canadian Coast Guard to avoid all non-essential boating due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with an expected increase in the number of boaters sailing this summer, prompted an order by Sidney Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) staff to close the popular boat ramp indefinitely on Friday.

“About a week ago we came to the conclusion that it was difficult for us to manage the boat ramp with respect to physical distancing, because our bylaw officers are fully allocated with proactively working with the businesses that are closed or in the process of reopening,” said EOC director and Sidney Fire Chief Brett Mikkelsen.

“We came to the difficult decision to close the boat ramp to non-essential use.”

The order from the EOC that would have seen the closure of the only remaining open boat launch on the Saanich Peninsula has been cancelled thanks to an agreement with the Sidney Anglers Association. The association will provide safety ambassadors to ensure that the launch is being safely used during peak hours.

“24-hour access on this ramp is always important to have, so we wanted to be able to offer to the Town of Sidney our members as ambassadors to advise people on the safe use of the launch,” said Sidney Anglers Association president Grant MacPherson.

“We felt that as long as social distancing could be maintained that we should still be able to recreate, be it fishing or even maintaining a vessel that might be at a dock.”

On weekends as many as 400 boaters will use the facility. The number of users on a long weekend during the summer months can go up by as much as 50 per cent. With so many people using the ramp, the members of the angler’s association will be greeting boaters and advising people to maintain a safe distance from others at the boat launch and the surrounding parking lots.

They will also be directing boaters to a staging area so they can prepare boats before arriving at the launch ramp.

“We want people to be ready so they can launch immediately, so we can make this available to everybody,” said MacPherson.

“Even though our members will be cleaning all common touch surfaces, like the ticket dispenser, we are asking people to bring their own hand sanitizer,” he added.

The town has installed additional signs advising users to maintain physical distancing while at the boat launch.

“The Coast Guard is asking us to limit this to essential travel on the water,” said MacPherson. “Please respect the rules that we are putting in place as the guideline so we can make this continue.”

The town’s goal, with the support of the anglers, is to keep the Tulista boat launch open to the public for safe use while allowing people the opportunity to get out on the waters surrounding Vancouver Island.

"This is a great example of the community coming together and working together," said Mikkelsen.