Metro Vancouver is planning to spend $40 million to create a new regional park that would bring overnight camping to Bowen Island.
"It's really, truly an amazing opportunity," said John McEwen, chair of Metro Vancouver's Regional Parks Committee, of the plan to purchase almost a square kilometre of land around Cape Roger Curtis at the island's southwest tip.
The land is a mixture of waterfront and forested area, and has been owned by a private company. Much of it is zoned for single-family homes on 10-acre lots, and proposals to develop and densify the area have created controversy on Bowen Island over the past decade.
"[The owner] cleared the sites. They put in electricity, they've actually put Wi-Fi at each site as well, and drilled for water," said McEwen.
According to Metro Vancouver, the campground will have approximately 90 sites that would be a mix of walk-in and drive-in spots, though no RV camping would be permitted.
It would be the first place for overnight camping on Bowen Island, which is a 20-minute ferry ride from West Vancouver and has a population of just over 4,000 people.
"Things take time. But most of the infrastructure and the plan is already starting to be developed," McEwen said.
New fund for parks created 3 years ago
The $40 million funding came in part from a new levy that Metro Vancouver passed in 2019, which added $4 to the average yearly property tax bill of every home in the region for new regional parks.
"That has allowed us to have some capital reserves … to buy new land," said Metro Vancouver chair Sav Dhaliwal.
Metro Vancouver currently has 22 regional parks, which have seen an increase in use during the pandemic, and Dhaliwal said it was a priority of the district to ensure greater access.
"There's a great shortage of campsites. This is a modest increase, but I believe people will be excited because it's not too far to get to," he said.
Dhaliwal and McEwen said they hoped an agreement could be finalized in the next year, with camping beginning in late 2023 or 2024. Some rezoning will be required, and Metro Vancouver hopes to work with TransLink to provide transit options to get to the campground.
"What we don't want to do is cause any more grief and traffic for the ferry that goes to Bowen Island," said McEwen.
"There's still some logistics that we have to work out."