Work to build a new rock wall in front of three beachfront properties on Chesterman Beach has sparked local concerns. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Work to build a new rock wall in front of three beachfront properties on Chesterman Beach has sparked local concerns. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Loss of public access to Tofino beach questioned

New rock wall build on Chesterman Beach causes concern

A shoreline restoration project on North Chesterman Beach is causing community ire due to the potential loss of public beach land.

The revetment work, which started on June 9 and is scheduled to last up to two weeks, involves building a new leaning rock wall in front of three Lynn Road beachfront properties. The privately financed project features a 4-metre extension of rock/vegetation towards the high water mark, over approximately 100-metre of beachfront.

John Livingston is one of the Tofino property owners on the project.

“We are putting rocks at the edge of the property line to stabilize the bank and to make sure the shoreline does not get eroded. All the permits are in place and we are doing it through this Green Shores environmentally friendly method,” said Livingston.

In Canada, Green Shores for Homes (GSH) is led by the Stewardship Centre for British Columbia. The program originated in the U.S. coastal state of Washington, and focuses on positive steps to reduce the impacts of residential development on shoreline ecosystems while helping waterfront homeowners restore natural shorelines.

Guy Johnson, another Tofino property owner partnered on the restoration project, says the work is being done in the most responsible way possible.

“We didn’t put [the rock wall] on our property line because then we would have had to tear up all the riparian area. Of course, nobody wants to do that. It makes no sense. You don’t want to disturb that, so that’s why we started discussing with the Province,” said Johnson.

As part of a two-year long permitting process, the Lynn Road property owners made application in 2020 under the Crown Land Residential policy for a License of Occupation to build a revetment in front of their properties. Issued by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, a License of Occupation is granted for applications where minimal improvements are proposed, where there are potentially multiple users of a site, where a survey is not required and where government wishes to retain future options and management control over the use of the land.

“A License of Occupation does not allow the tenure holder to curtail public access over the license area nor does it confer a right to exclusive use and occupancy of the land. The application was also subject to First Nation consultation as well as referred to local stakeholders,” reads a statement from the Ministry.

Once the License of Occupation was obtained from the Province, the applicants had to secure a development permit from the District of Tofino. Manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers sees the Chesterman Beach shoreline work as a pilot project. He said this Green Shore restoration wall is the first of its kind for the district.

“This is a softer solution to rock walls. It will create a gentler slope, which allows the energy of waves to come and deposit sand rather than smashing into a rock wall. I’m holding the faith that everyone is going into this with good intentions,” said Rodgers.

However, he flagged concerns about losing that portion of the beach a couple years from now due to accretion.

“If the land does what it’s supposed to, creating dunes again (and vegetation), it could be accreted on to that property and then we would lose it. That’s a main concern I addressed in meetings and in emails to the Province. I don’t want this to be a backdoor to creating more land,” he said.

“We would prefer (the work) be done on their land, but I’m going to take the Province at their word that they are working on public property and that I will be able to picnic there once it’s done,” Rodgers went on to note.

According to the Ministry of Forests, “The land will remain Crown land, but the applicants would be eligible to apply for accretion.”

Gillian Davidson is one of the Tofino property owners on the shoreline project. She says the construction site looks worse now with the area fenced off, but it’s still public beach.

“It’s everyone’s beach. All three families are big on this. We are just trying to make sure in the best environmental way possible that we don’t get flooded,” she said, adding that over the span of 10 years they have lost about 2-metres of property due to erosion.

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