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Paker Island Beach Cleanup and attempts at Barge Removal

Veins of Life Watershed Society

August 2006 Beach Cleanup

Thanksgiving 2006 Cleanup Mpeg

Parker Island Assorted Barge Pics

Parker Island Barge Jan 2007

Old news story of Willow Lane Barge # 3

Veins of Life Times Colonist News Jan 08 2007 Page 1

Veins of Life Times Colonist News Jan 08 2007 Page 2

Historical Letter of attempts to get someone to help local residents, A sad tale of lack of government interest, capacities, desire or ability. Over time there has been three barges abandoned here.

Part of an on going saga of embraced governments and bureaucrats , hoping to make themselves personally feel good.

Re: Abandoned barges located on Parker Island foreshore within the confines of Montague Harbour

Ronae Theabeau anchored the first barge, a 3000 sq. ft. structure, acquired in 1982, off Parker Island in 1983. In The Creek published May 1994, his son Tony Thibault, wrote an advertisement/article about the barges short life span: “Unfortunately, it didn’t get far as it was attacked by toredo worms (sort of a water termite) who had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With the bottom chewed out of her the Willow Lane had to be permanently beached on Parker Island opposite Montague Harbour in the fall of 1984”... “and left to her own devices”.

His son continued to explain that the second barge Mr. Theabeau acquired, (in 1993), was the 4800 sq. ft. Granville Island Barge which had been abandoned in False Creek/Vancouver after the second purchaser, Mr. Bob Murphy found that the barge was in poorer condition than he had thought. “In an effort to recoup his investment, Murphy sent the Barge off to be salvaged, its various parts to be disassembled for scrap”. At this time Mr. Theabeau acquired the barge. Re-naming the barge Club Beachcomber, Mr. Theabeau in a plan not well-based in reality, offered an adventure package for outdoor enthusiasts. He towed this barge to the site of the first barge in Montaque Harbour.

The living conditions on the barge even at its inception were not conducive to a successful or environmentally friendly operation. It was in need of significant structural repair, there was no immediate source of fresh water, no apparent sanitation system, and even if one existed, no access to a sewage pump out system. The venture appeared to be a failure from the beginning and local Parker Island residents noted a distinct absence of clientele. Mr. Theabeau continued to live aboard, along with his two dogs, without electricity or any known source of heat in both summer and winter for about 5 years.

Mr. Theabeau had the reputation of being a scavenger and he accumulated large amounts of “stuff” in and around his barges. As the main barge deteriorated more and more and sank deeper and deeper into the seabed, he began to spend greater amounts of time away until by 1997 he was not seen there any more.
During the time period outlined above local islanders expressed their concern to government authorities as they witnessed dog feces being swept overboard into a traditional beach area, saw no evidence of sanitation and were distressed that this same beach was now home to a decaying infrastructure as the older two story Willow Lane barge whose roof had caved in and was falling apart. Quite naturally the derelict and now dangerous building attracted young people, and became a valid cause for concern to boaters as quantities of wood, impregnated with large nails/spikes broke away from the barge and became entrapped in nearby docks, floated on to local beaches and/or out to sea to enter Trincomali Channel and the Georgia Strait. The breakaway debris often forms “rafts” of up to 15 square feet.
In July 1994 a spokesperson for the Parker Island Residents Association spoke with Crown Lands/Ministry of the Environment. Although the Ministry indicated that the removal of the barge was in process, months later there was no evidence that action had been taken.
In January 1995 a letter was sent to Mr. Mark Harvey, Land Administration Section/Ministry of Environment, Lands & Parks further outlining concerns of the Parker Islanders. Copies of this letter were sent to Mr. Larry Olison of Islands Trust.
Mr. Olison in turn contacted the Receivers of Wrecks (Federal) and on May 05, 1995 Mr. Mark Harvey accompanied the Coast Guard to take photos and post a notice on the larger barge giving notice to Mr. Theabeau to remove the barges within 60 days. Mr. Harvey indicated that he had the authority to burn the small barge and tow the large one after getting the required approval of the Ministry of Fisheries and the Minister of the Environment.

In the April 25, 1995 AGM of the Parker Island Residents Association the minutes stated that ”Your letters/calls regarding the “old” & “new” abandoned barges…have had an effect. Crown Lands arrived on site … and posted both barges with a 60-day action notice to be followed by removal/destruction. Mark Harvey is the force behind this action.”
On June 17, 1996 the then Parker Island Association president wrote to Mr. Harvey stating that the Granville Island Barge had beached itself in close proximity to the older Willow Lane barge and was now hard aground 24 hours a day. The infrastructure of the second barge was now entering a more obvious state of decay.
It was reported back to Parker Island residents that Larry Olison “has had conversations with both the Receivers of Wrecks (a federal government position) and the Coast Guard – Hazards to Navigation Division; no help was available from either of these sources.” “However he has made good progress with Mark Harvey, a new agent for Crown Lands with the Ministry of the Environment.” Islanders were encouraged to write Mr. Harvey with their concerns.
Despite all the efforts to date by islanders and Mark Harvey……NOTHING happened.

For the next four years the residents of Parker Island individually contacted many government agencies as they tried to find a solution.
In August/September 2000 the problem had become so critical that once more a concerted effort was launched by another Parker Island resident. They wrote : “In recent months the second barge has been vandalized. All the windows and doors have been smashed and broken glass is strewn everywhere. Much of the furniture, appliances, and fixtures have been overturned and broken up. Broken tools, motors, paints, and other hardware (possibly including solvents and other hazardous wastes), all manner of old kitchenware, mattresses, sleeping bags, books, etc. etc. are strewn over the entire floor area. Much of the

drywall and fiberglass insulation has been torn out of the walls and thrown around. In effect the entire 4800 square feet of floor area is a complete jumble of garbage. From the very beginning, particularly after the second barge appeared, the residents of Parker Island and, though probably to a lesser extent, the tourists and other users of Montague Harbor have expressed concern and dismay that these unsightly barges were allowed to be brought here and then remain in an otherwise beautiful bay. On various occasions in the past some of us have attempted to find someone with some authority that could or would help us rectify the situation. Each attempt has ended in failure. We can find no one with the authority, financial resources and/or the interest to deal with this matter”.
“However, it is no longer simply a matter of the view of a beautiful bay and beach being spoiled by two derelict structures. Now there is a real and immanent danger that literally tons of junk (refrigerators, stoves, bathroom fixtures, a great deal of furniture, a large amount of drywall, and fiberglass insulation, etc.) are going to end up in the ocean. It is only a matter of time, and perhaps not much time, before the second barge breaks up and the consequences of this happening in this area of the ocean will be devastating”.
“Somehow we must find someone who is willing to get involved in preventing this from occurring and this is what I am now attempting to do. At the very least, the second barge needs to be gutted and the contents loaded into barges in garbage containers and properly disposed of.”

This letter, which included detailed cost estimates for the removal of contents of the barge, is attached. Copies were sent to:
Islands Trust,
Receiver of Wrecks,
Canadian Coast GuardWestern Canada Wilderness CommitteeSierra Club of Western CanadaDavid Suzuki FoundationGary Lunn, Member of Parliament
Svend Robinson, Member of Parliament

Murray Coell, MLA
Water Management Branch, Ministry of the Environment, Lands, & Parks
Federal Department of Oceans and Fisheries, Conservation and Protection Branch Provincial Ministry of Fisheries
In response to this letter written in the spring of 2000 it was evident that environmental agencies were not able to help because of lack of funding and/or recognition that it was not within their mandates to take on such a project.
Government agencies either didn’t respond or continued the complicated process of passing responsibility to other levels or branches of government. There was one exception, Sven Robinson MP a new property owner on Parker Island took up the challenge. Mr. Robinson contacted Mr. Max Nock of B.C. Assets and Land Corporation, Mr. Gordon Small of B.C. Assets and Land Corporation and Mr. Earl Warnock, Regional Director, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Vancouver Island Region.
On January 17 2001 Mr. Warnock wrote in reply. “…This ministry certainly has an interest in seeing old derelict vessels such as this removed both from an environmental and safety perspective. However, we do not have legislation that permits us to order others or take control ourselves unless pollution is occurring”.
“From a provincial perspective it appears the only legislation that could be pertinent would be the Land Act administered by British Columbia Assets and Land Corporation (BCLA). However, they have advised us that it is their belief that the responsibility to deal with this rests with the Receiver of Wrecks with the Canadian Coast Guard assuming these barges fall under the definition of “wrecks” under Section 2 of the Canada Shipping Act. The definition of “wreck” seems quite comprehensive including aircraft, personal property, and cargo and this includes “jetsam, flotsam, lagan and derelicts found in or on the shores of the seas of any tidal water or any of the inland waters of Canada”. BCAL advises that neither the funding nor its present priorities permit the substantial expenditure necessary to remove the vessels.”
“Although we do not have the authority to directly address this situation, we would certainly lend whatever support we could to the Coast Guard and /or BCLA. ”
Mr. Warnock sent copies to Max Nock, British Columbia Assets and Land Corporation and John Mackie, Coast Guard Canada, Vancouver.
While the above correspondence was taking place between Mr. Svend Robinson and Mr. Warnock, another resident of Parker Island wrote on January 8, 2001 to Mr. Jim Schellenberg, Fisheries and Oceans, Canadian Coast Guard-NWPD (with a copy to Mr. G. Kosanovich, Manager/Transport Canada-Marine). She received a reply, dated January 10, 2001, from Yvette Myers, Superintendent, Navigable Waters Protection Division, Canada Coast Guard, Pacific Region.
Ms. Myers wrote: “…the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) conducted an onsite investigation on December 17, 1999….Our findings revealed that the barges are in a poor state of repair and hard aground; however they do not constitute an obstacle or obstruction to marine navigation under the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA). Accordingly, the CCG has no authority to deal with the barges.”
“…As discussed with Mr. Svend Robinson, the CCG sympathizes with the community and continues to search for available means to help with the removal of the derelict barges. One such method may be through application of section 20 of the NWPA. This section allows the Minister to authorize any person to remove and take possession of a vessel, after two years of the date of the grounding, for that person’s own benefit, upon giving to the owner , one months notice. It is important to note that Section 20 of the NWPA falls under Part II of the Act and should only be used when vessels have become an obstacle or obstruction to navigation. Furthermore, application of this section also requires an environmental assessment pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.”
“Another potential approach may be through application of the Canada Shipping Act 9CSA) part VI, which deals with salvage and wreck. When a wreck is salvaged it must be reported and delivered to the Receiver of Wreck. The ROW has a responsibility to act as a custodian for wreck in the absence of the rightful owner and must attempt to locate the owner. Should the community wish to salvage the barges, the ROW under the CSA may dispense with delivery and release the barges in lieu of salvage expenses, particularly if the owner cannot be located.”
“Unfortunately this is a civil matter that should be resolved between the property owner and vessel owner. It is my understanding that the barge lies on provincial land and section 60(f) of the BC Land Titles Act speaks to the issue. Therefore, I would recommend that you contact Keith Anderson at (250) 751-3209 for assistance.”
“Should the community have sufficient funds to effect removal and wish to explore the potential options noted above, please contact Jim Schellenberg at (604) 775-8896. Once again, thank you for apprising CCG of your concerns and I trust they have been addressed.”
In summary, our concerns have not been addressed. We have watched a government bucket brigade pass our concerns skillfully amongst themselves in a level of complexity that excludes the average citizen. One should not have to have upper level management skills and a degree in law to facilitate the removal of two barges that are breaking up in winter storms and releasing timbers impregnated with spikes, and literally tons of junk (including refrigerators, stoves, bathroom fixtures, batteries, furniture, drywall and fiberglass insulation), all of which are environmental hazards, a threat to sea life, a danger to docks and boats and especially threatening to those who rely on dinghies for daily transportation.
The barges also attract curious children and adults who are not cognizant of the hidden dangers that are inherent to a decaying and rotting structure. I sincerely believe that it is only through the diligence of near-by property owners on Parker Island that a child has not been killed on these barges yet. The day before writing this letter three children, who failed to secure their dinghy, had to be rescued by a Parker Island resident. This is just one of several similar incidents that occurred this summer. Please note, the only way the above mentioned children could have gotten off the barge would have involved crawling through the hull and crossing the beach. The beach has also become very dangerous, especially to small children, because as the natural flow of water has become disrupted behind the barge the mud/sand has developed a texture similar to quicksand.
It has been suggested that the residents of Parker Island should assume “ownership” of the barges. With that they would also immediately assume legal liability and the cost of removal. We are not in a financial position to do this, nor should we be put in this position. Just how long would an abandoned and derelict camper van be left on a major highway in a national park? Would its removal be the responsibility of the nearest neighbours?
Montague Harbour is a one of the most beautiful harbours in the Gulf Islands and is home to a marine park and camping site. In the summer it is not unusual to see up to 30 people on the beach where the grounded barges are located as it is a natural stopping place for boaters and kayakers.
It is ironic that the most consistent, but definitely off the record advice, that Islanders have been given by government agencies is to “throw a match”. It is not within the nature of the local residents to further an already dangerous and environmentally negative situation.
The first barge has now broken up and the large second barge is so water-logged that it would only burn to the water line, setting free hazardous waste and leaving behind massive timbers embedded with nails and spikes that would be set free in storm conditions. It will be interesting to see how fast action will be taken when one or more adult, adolescent or child is killed. What is the cost of removing a barge compared to the death of a person?

John suggests the time has come to consider direct involvement in barge demolition and removal. Some funding is likely to be available but it will also require work on our part, and involvement of environmentally focused volunteers if we want their help.

Here for your consideration are objectives and an action plan:


1. Safe and environmentally respectful removal of the barge and cleanup of remnants of other barges;
2. Restoration of the isthmus shoreline to a more natural state;
3. Ongoing management ability to prevent future threats to the bay and shoreline.


1. Removal of non-natural “stuff” from the isthmus shoreline and intertidal zone: A start was made on this on August 31st and additional work has been ongoing. Some non-burnables have already reached a transfer station in the Lower Mainland; carpet fragments have been dragged from the mud, and burn piles are being prepared.
2. Demolition and on-deck burning of material from the wood frame structure on the barge: John notes that a portion of the barge deck is concrete and controlled burning of wood in this area appears feasible. Local Trustee Sharp, who is also a member of the South Galiano Volunteer Fire Department, appeared to be supportive of this approach and indicated he would request a portable fire pump and other advice or assistance we might require.
3. Consolidation of non-burnable, non-sinkable “stuff” including drywall, appliances, steel, plastic/synthetic furniture, etc. for dryland disposal. Apparently CRD funds should be available for this requirement and John will look into tapping them. The priority status of the barge with Islands Trust may help.
4. Removal of the barge hull. John suggests alternatives include: intact removal to a sinking location where the remains would have the status of “fish habitat”; breakup for removal by barge for transfer to a disposal site; and, piece by piece transfer to the shoreline for burning and steel extraction and removal. Whatever alternative, the activity would be subject to review of an appropriate registered professional and relevant government agencies.
5. Consideration of creating an entity to (a) protect all participants from personal liability; and, (b) acquire significant control of the intertidal zone and bay in the future, thereby being able to manage anchorage of vessels and other threats to the shoreline. Potential options for the latter include incorporation and application for a shellfish lease or other BC Government granted tenure. Options will be considered and open to participation of interested islanders.


1. Clean up on the shoreline: Consolidate plastics, metals, etc. for removal. Consolidate burnables, especially non-natural material (such as old construction lumber with nails and hardware) in burn piles above the high tide line in spots where burning will minimize impact on vegetation; Note that some heavy chunks may be marked "do not remove" -- they could be useful anchors if we have to winch barge debris ashore.
2. Thanksgiving Weekend barge work. John Roe plans to attend and with the help of available islanders we will assess the challenge and proceed with initial work (e.g., bagging insulation and drywall for removal, limited burning of the above-deck framed structure);
3. Shoreline bonfires as appropriate considering the fire hazard rating and the availability of burn piles. Again, work will start on Thanksgiving Weekend and burning will be subject to weather conditions.


IMPORTANT NOTE: Parker Island Residents Holdings Ltd. (“PIRHL”) owns property and holds a water lease adjacent to the barge, intertidal zone and shoreline. While, in the past, the PIRHL has encouraged government to attend to barge removal, it does not have a mandate for direct involvement in the cleanup and barge removal project. Shareholders involved in these activities would not be acting on behalf of PIRHL.


P.S. Inspired by the Galiano fire and on behalf of many Parker Islanders a significant cash donation has been delivered to the South Galiano Volunteer Fire Department. It was very well received!

Thanks Giving Weekend

Thanksgiving Weekend was very rewarding for the 22 volunteers who turned out to help demolish the barge and clean up the shoreline.

In addition to John Roe, we had assistance from another off-islander: Michelle Marsden whose past includes organizing shoreline cleanup on Pender Island (see and

Video coverage of activity on the barge made it into the news on the Victoria TV station. Also, images and short videos of the barge and demolition activity are on the Veins of Life Watershed Society website (

John arrived several days in advance and started clearing the concrete deck area to make it safe to move around. A section of the rafters and the centre beam were then cut, broken apart and stacked and remaining drywall and insulation separated. The planned work area was inspected – one area was found to have a tipsy panel offering a quick route to tidewater or the mud bottom 12 feet below. The deck in other areas was noted to be rotten plywood and roped off.

By the weekend the scene was set for serious garbage bagging; relocation of “furnishings”, separation of metal, and dismantling of the wood frame building structure. Piece by piece sheathing and interior panelling were removed and the wood frame smashed down. Drywall and wall insulation required separation and bagging. Just about everything went according to plan and a lot was achieved:
• Drywall, insulation, broken glass, old carpeting and other debris from over 1/3 of the barge deck has been bagged for removal;
• Batt insulation from the above area’s ceiling has been removed and bagged;
• The wood frame structure at the west 1/4 to 1/3 of the barge has been dismantled.
By Sunday afternoon a tired and dirty demolition crew was heading off with a feeling of major accomplishment.

On the shoreline, huge volumes of broom and brambles were cut and piled for future fires. Cleanup in the tidal zone was prevented by the high tide level, but there’s considerable enthusiasm for getting on with the task next spring when low daytime tides return. Clearly, the bay has potential to have its beauty restored and can become a real asset for the Parker Island community.

Abandoned Barge

A couple of weeks ago, Moving Experience, the landing barge from Ganges, departed Parker Island with a cargo of debris from the abandoned barge. Virtually all drywall, appliances, broken glass, metallic debris, carpeting and furniture remnants have now been removed; the wood frame structure from the west third of the barge has been demolished and disposed of; and what remains of the barge deck has been swept clean. A partial but significant success – the most undesirable debris that remained on the barge will not end up in one of Parker Island’s bays or at Philimore Point, Galiano.

John Roe of the Veins of Life Watershed Society has not only managed the demolition and removal process but also has been the key person in the hands-on dirty work. In the removal project he was assisted by a crew organized by Salt Spring's Copper Kettle Society. Funding to cover removal costs has been another critical issue. Many, many hours were spent negotiating grants and meeting endless technicalities for the transfer of funds. To date we have raised $5600.00, and other funds are pending. The organizations that have contributed are listed below, and deserve the recognition and thanks of Parker Islanders.

Parker Island Residents Holdings Ltd. Property

Last summer a number of volunteers worked to remove steel laden timbers and rusty steel that lay alongside the Company dock – remains of yet another abandoned barge. Others spent their days cutting broom and collecting garbage on Company property and the isthmus. Despite challenging ignition conditions, broom and timbers were cremated in mid-November along with several piles of rotting logs that sat on the parking area and adjacent sidehill. After completion of the burn well over a tonne of steel rebar, bolts and hardware was separated. This material has now been removed from the island for recycling.

Next Steps

If sufficient funds can be found, the Veins of Life Watershed Society may be able to bring in an experienced crew to complete demolition of the above-deck wood frame structure on the barge, thereby assuring the material will not float away if the waterlogged, rotten remains of the barge hull breaks up in a storm.

We understand BC Transmission Corporation is being encouraged by government agencies to assist with cleanup of the bay as mitigation for impacts of the Vancouver Island Transmission Line Reinforcement Project. Such assistance may pemit removal of all remaining barge debris and work to re-establish eel grass beds. The Corporation’s consulting biologists recently conducted a site visit as part of their review of the situation.

A small proportion of the earlier barge debris beside the Company dock remains at and just below low tide level. If this is not removed in conjunction with other work to clean up and restore the bay, Island volunteers will haul it ashore for burning when suitable tide levels are available next spring or summer.

Thanks to Those Who Helped

Parker Island
Bill, Sue and Angela Danyluk
Elyn Underhill
Graham Wetter and Silvana Saccomani
Jerome Windsor
Kim Kerns and Katy Mateer
Liz Toone and the Cookie Kids
Marina and Mat Alexander
Perry Richel and Michelle
Phil and Carol Crampton
Rob and Joan Carne
Sheila and Peter Midgley
Svend Robinson
Steve and Colleen Knight

Off Island
John Roe, Director, Viens of Life Watershed Society
Roy Smith and Mike Sharp, Galiano Island Local Trustees, Islands Trust
Michelle Marsden, Pender Islander and 2006 Islands Trust Stewardship Award Winner
Gillian Saxby, Islands Trust, Special Projects Planner

Thanks to Those Who Provided Funding

Capital Regional District Grant-In-Aid Program (Susan DeGryp, Director Southern Gulf Islands, CRD)
CRD Community Clean-Up Assistance Program
Galiano Lions Club
Island Savings Credit Union, Salt Spring Branch

in response to requests for information on how to contribute, contact
Veins of Life Watershed Sociey