HORSESHOE Bay pier is staying open for vehicle traffic this October after council reversed plans to close the dock at a council meeting Monday.
The District of West Vancouver had announced a plan to shut the pier to everything except pedestrians and emergency vehicles beginning Oct. 1 in a bid to protect the wharf's structural integrity.
After consulting with many residents who regularly use the pier, the plan was amended to maintain a steady flow of traffic at the dock.
"We underestimated the inconvenience to users of the pier," said Anne Mooi, director of parks and community services for the district.
The switch was appreciated by resident John Lowe. As a frequent visitor to Keats Island, Lowe said a pier closure would represent a "serious impediment to islanders."
The closure was originally set to be enacted to assure a smooth path for emergency vehicles, to protect pedestrians and to protect the pier from further deterioration.
Despite signs indicating the weight limit on the pier, many wharf-users drive heavy vehicles onto the pier and cause serious damage to the dock, according to a recent report.
The pier was inspected in mid-2011 by the engineering firm MMM Group.
The company, which regularly inspects bridges, discovered structural stress points at the pier's bent caps, which support the driving surface.
No vehicle on the pier should exceed 9,000 kilograms, according to the company's report.
MMM Group's findings suggest the pier is regularly being loaded well above the maximum weight limit.
Wear and tear on the structure are projected to cost the district approximately $300,000 in capital costs over the next 10 years.
"How are we going to pay for it?" asked Coun. Craig Cameron.
In an attempt to reduce the burden shouldered by West Vancouver taxpayers, Cameron suggested instituting a levy system.
A system of fees earmarked for the pier's upkeep would place the onus of responsibility on the dock users, who are needed to look after the wharf, said Cameron.
"There's going to be an enforcement issue here and we can't have a municipal staff person sitting there 24/7," he said.
The signs on the pier indicating the weight limit are frequently ignored, according to West Vancouver naturalist and dock-user Bruce McArthur.
"Unless you can enforce what's happening at the pier, there's no sense changing anything," he told council.
The district is currently preparing bylaws which would penalize overweight vehicles and unsafe drivers on the dock, but there are currently no penalties for drivers who contribute to the pier's deterioration.
"There's really no control on the pier as to who can get on and off," said Coun. Bill Soprovich.
For several decades, the dock was supervised by Billy Lord, who traded 10 hours of work as a watchman for free moorage for his houseboat.
Lord's arrangement with the district was terminated in March, 2011, when the district decided the long-time watchman could not sub-contract out his work when he was away from the dock.
Lord's job entailed keeping an eye on the dock for overloading, filing monthly safety reports, and cleaning debris out from underneath the pier.