Sydney council moving ahead with ferry proposal

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SYDNEY — Cape Breton regional council believes a proposed pedestrian ferry service for Sydney harbour holds water and will advertise to see if there is a boat owner willing to provide the seasonal service as a pilot next summer.

Next summer these sailboats may be sharing Sydney harbour with a seasonal ferry service from downtown Sydney to Westmount.

Planner Rick McCready provided council members with an update on the CBRM’s active transportation plan including the shuttle, at a general committee meeting this week.

The idea for the ferry between Westmount and downtown Sydney arose during public workshops as the municipality began working on its active transportation study.

Councillors unanimously passed staff’s recommendation to move ahead with attempting to identify an individual or non-profit group with access to a boat to operate the pilot.

The municipality has received a 79-page study from consultant Stantec on the potential ferry operation. A summary of the report indicated that a survey and focus groups demonstrated significant support for the idea from residents of Westmount looking to access downtown Sydney and officials with the Sydney Ports Corp. who think the service could be of benefit to the cruise ship industry and tourism in general.

The study cost $30,000, with half the cost coming from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ green municipal funds, with Enterprise Cape Breton Corp. and the CBRM’s active transportation fund covering the remainder.

“The financial projections were actually a little bit better than any of us thought they would be,” McCready said. “They did show that break-even was feasible if you have the right backers in place.”

The CBRM is not committing to providing any form of operating subsidy to an operator.

The report recommends a modified Cape Island-style boat or a pontoon boat that would seat a maximum of 12 passengers. It was found to be most feasible to try to attract an existing boat owner.

“They actually identified one particular operator who owns a boat already who is interested in it,” McCready said. “They recommend that we work with ECBC and a private operator to try the service for one summer.”

The service would run over a 16-week period from June-October, at maximum. The study found that the most suitable landing sites at the Dobson Yacht Club and former Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club. There have been some positive informal talks among the parties involved.

Dist. 5 Coun. Eldon MacDonald suggested that the service could help expand participation in some festivals in the municipality such as last week’s Lumière.

The report noted someone operating the service would supplement revenues by offering harbour tours outside of the shuttle schedule, something not currently available in Sydney harbour.

Public consultation showed some interest in extending the service to Petersfield Park or possibly even North Sydney.

Concerns around the issue that arose with the Kidston Island shuttle offered by the Baddeck Lions Club regarding Transport Canada regulations were noted in the study. It noted those issues were resolved and that shuttle operated in 2013.

The full study is expected to be available on the CBRM’s website for download.

Organizations: Sydney council, Enterprise Cape Breton, Sydney Ports Federation of Canadian Municipalities Dobson Yacht Club Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club Baddeck Lions Club Transport Canada

Geographic location: Sydney, Westmount, Cape Island Petersfield Park

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  • Eric MacKinnon
    October 06, 2013 - 15:45

    Regarding the headline, when did the CBRM Council become the "Sydney" Council? How did that error miss being edited?