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SOS Rally

photo by Kyla Hemmelgarn

Hot sun beat down upon an estimated 150 watercraft who converged on Howe Sound Sunday June 30, 2013. Waters were calm and the rallyers peaceful, but their message came through loud and strong: Save our sound

The backdrop: McNab Creek Valley—lush, green, mountainous—and the site of a proposed large scale industrial gravel mine.

Three yachts displayed giant banners. One letter each to spell S.O.S.: Save our sound.

In the center of the action, 87-foot La Feline was generously donated for the day as home base. Its owners are members of Thunderbird Yacht Club, which has an outstation in direct sight of where the mine would be.

10095292Bylaw 283—a Lions Bay band cheekily named after the town’s noise bylaw—treated rally-goers to a funky, upbeat outdoor concert from the top deck of La Feline. The sound amplified perfectly across the water and could be heard more than 1 kilometer away. It also reverberated up the valley, which deepened concerns about the noise impact a 24/7 gravel mining and processing operation will have on this peaceful valley.

Between songs, a series of speakers took turns addressing the reasons for the day’s event. The S.O.S. Rendezvous was a party to celebrate the beauty of this area and results of the environmental recovery after decades of industrial abuse, but more importantly a reminder and education of why a comprehensive management plan for the Howe Sound Region is needed.

Randall Lewis SpeaksThe recorded sounds of an actual gravel mining and rock processing operation were amplified to bring everyone to attention. Bandleader Joe Wozny asked if this was the noise we want for the future

Cari Snell, whole foods nutritionist and community dynamo, welcomed everyone to the rendezvous and got the energy pumping while boats started to slowly circle around. Paddle boarders, kayakers, and swimmers floated and danced for the next couple of hours.

From the Squamish Nation: Linda Williams, her daughter Joyce, Randall Lewis, and his sister Francine welcomed the crew to their traditional territory and performed two traditional welcome songs.

Lions Bay Mayor Brenda Broughton, a long time champion for Howe Sound, spoke about the recovery the sound has undergone since the early 90’s and how hard it is to imagine why we might compromise this recovery after so much taxpayer investment. She emphasized the value of a natural Howe Sound to the current tourism and recreation economy of the area.

Ruth Simons, Executive Director of the Future of Howe Sound Society, spoke about the many projects that are currently being proposed for Howe Sound—the mine at McNab Creek, an LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant, clear-cutting on Gambier Island, among other concerns. She calls this a watershed moment and says: “It’s time for a comprehensive plan to preserve and protect the waters and the land in Howe Sound.”

Mayor Broughton SpeaksStephen Foster, Howe Sound team lead for the Suzuki Foundation, spoke about Howe Sound as the natural capital of the region and a study is underway before it is too late. He says: If there was ever a time to protect Howe Sound for future generations this is it

Tim Turner of the Sea to Sky Outdoor School for Sustainability Education arrived at the rally with his brother Bob Turner via the McNab Creek. The two outdoorsmen had floated 2 kilometres down the creek, noting the Cutthroat Trout along the way. He spoke about Howe Sound as a place of invaluable education for thousands of youth who attend its many camps each summer.

Ric Careless, Executive Director of B.C. Spaces for Nature, was the final speaker and is one of B.C.’s leaders in protecting wilderness. His message: Howe Sound is a world class destination and the province must recognize this before it’s too late. What we take for granted, tourists see as spectacular. He coined the catch phrase: “Howe Sound: how special, how close.”

These speeches fell on the right ears. MP John Weston (West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country) was attending the rally and listening intently to the speakers. The following day, he wrote an open letter to Ruth Simons where he suggested working together to ask the federal government to fund a study of the region’s economy and environment to help design that long term management plan that the Future of Howe Sound is pursuing. “This may be the beginning of a long journey,” he said, “but one well worth traveling together.”

Thank you to everyone in every boat, on every paddleboard, and those who floated down the creek or found other creative ways to be there. This day was a success because of every single participant who smiled and cheered and made noise to support the cause. We also thank the weather for being perfect. It showed the region in its most glorious natural state—one that we hope to preserve for centuries to come.

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