Campaign by the Vancouver Rowing Club – 2020 Update

Help Us Stop The Royal Vancouver Yacht Club From Taking Over Public Waterways Off the Coast of Stanley Park

Media Inquiries: [email protected]

About The Yacht Club’s Project

  • The Royal Vancouver Yacht Club has a problem. The facilities at their Coal Harbour Marina are old, environmentally unsound, and need to be replaced. They have calculated the replacement cost to be $8 million over ten years.
  • Now, while it may sound fair to ask yacht owners to pay the true cost of parking their boats in one of the most idyllic places in the world, they evidently disagreed*, and started looking for other ways to raise funds.
    (*This is the opinion of Vancouver Rowing Club based on RVYC correspondence to its members, which can be viewed in the video linked to this webpage). 
  • Eventually, the Yacht Club came up with a plan: they would take over part of the remaining public waterway in Coal Harbour, use the new space to add 47 additional berths for yachts, and sell them off as pre-paid moorage (up to $150,000 a piece) to rapidly raise funds. They have calculated that their plan will raise $5 million in funds for their members.
  • The result? The Yacht Club’s members (yacht owners) will pay less. This seems like a great idea… if you are a member of the Yacht Club!
  • But for everyone else, this plan is bad news. First, it means the loss of yet another public space in Vancouver. Second, it threatens to devastate the Vancouver Rowing Club – located right next door – an accessible and inclusive organization that has trained both recreational and competitive rowers since 1886.
  • As attested to by Rowing Canada, Rowing BC, and two Canadian Olympic gold medal rowers, the Yacht Club’s expansion plans are reckless and dangerous for rowers and other users of this busy public waterway.
  • Make no mistake – the Yacht Club’s plan is about money. There is nothing preventing them from upgrading their facilities in a way that does not compromise the safety of rowers in Coal Harbour, but they are refusing to accommodate our concerns.

Why The Vancouver Rowing Club Opposes The Project

  • The expansion plan greatly reduces the width of the public waterway. At the narrowest point of the channel currently used for rowing, this means 20-30% less space for everyone on the water.
  • It will also add dangerous new blind spots, increasing the chance of a devastating on-water collision.
  • On a busy day there are up to 20 rowing boats with about 60 people on the water at any one time, as well as yachts, harbour cruises, and other boats. Safety in these busy public waters is paramount.

What Elected Officials, Stakeholders, and Athletes Say

  • Kennedy Stewart, Mayor of Vancouver has written a letter to the Port of Vancouver, stating: City Council shares the VRC’s concerns that the proposed expansion of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club’s (RVYC) marina, and subsequent narrowing of the Coal Harbour waterway, will have a negative impact on its rowing programs by increasing the number of large motorized boats in the waterway and reducing sight lines.
  • In a Media Release issued June 24, 2020, Councillor Pete Fry states: For over 100 years, the Vancouver Rowing Club has been teaching people of all ages and incomes to learn a great sport. It provides an important public service to our City. I support the Vancouver Rowing Club, and believe their concerns should be taken seriously.
  • Vancouver City Council has passed a unanimous motion stating:
    …The proposed expansion of RVYC marina and subsequent narrowing of the Coal Harbour waterway may have a substantial impact on its rowing programs by increasing the number of large motorized boats and reducing sight lines…THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
    A. THAT Vancouver City Council affirms support for The Vancouver Rowing Club and the history and future of rowing in Vancouver by sending a letter to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, doing business as the Port of Vancouver.
    B. THAT Council affirms support for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, doing business as the Port of Vancouver to create a multi-use strategy for Coal Harbour to the benefit of the entire Harbour and safety of users.
    C. THAT the Mayor on behalf of City Council and in consultation with the Park Board write to the Harbourmaster, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, doing business as the Port of Vancouver, and the Navigation Protection Program of Transport Canada of the Port of Vancouver advising them of the above.
  • For more information on this motion, you can view the video of Vancouver Rowing Club representatives presenting at City Council, or read the minutes.
  • The Vancouver Park Board has not yet taken a position on this project. Please see this story in Maclean’s, which contains the following quote (at end of article): …while the park board had supported an earlier project to replace the club’s boat shelters, it has not taken a position on the current proposal to expand the yacht club’s water lot.
  • Spencer Chandra-Herbert, MLA for Vancouver West End has written to the Port of Vancouver, stating: I believe the changes would make it much more dangerous for rowers, and other local users of the water, and would disrupt our local maritime tourism, and active sport economy for little benefit. These proposed changes would have long term negative community, economic and environmental impact and for these reasons, I do not support this proposed expansion. When having to choose between safety for rowers, and a cleaner healthier environment in Coal Harbour vs space for luxury yacht parking I know what side I’m on.
  • Rowing Canada has written to the Port of Vancouver, stating: We concur with the concerns the [Vancouver Rowing] club has outlined regarding the RVYC proposal and also think that proceeding with the expansion as described would compromise rowing in Coal Harbour.
  • These concerns were echoed by Rowing BC, who also wrote to the Port of Vancouver, stating: The Royal Vancouver Yacht Club’s proposed expansion project will make it difficult to maintain the minimum level of safety required for rowing to continue on Coal Harbour.
  • In a video released by the Rowing Club in summer 2019, Dr. Don Arnold and Derek Porter – both Olympic rowers who won gold for Canada – say that proceeding with the Yacht Club’s expansion plans would likely cause the destruction of the Vancouver Rowing Clu sb.

Community Plans and Legislation

  • Rowing in Vancouver’s public waters is supported by City Council through the Vancouver Sport Strategy for Rowing.
  • Vancouver Park Board recently approved their “On Water, Vancouver’s Non-motorized Watercraft Recreation Strategy” which was created to advocate for parks and recreation to benefit all people and the environment, including non-motorized water sport activities such as canoeing, kite surfing, rowing, dragon boating, outrigging, windsurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and small craft sailing.
  • Vancouver Rowing Club’s programming is consistent with Vancouver’s Healthy City Strategy goal that: “All Vancouverites are engaged in active living and have incomparable access to nature.”

How Does the Expansion Affect Public Interest?

  • Big yachts pollute and are generally inaccessible to the public, whereas rowing is a sport contributing to the health of Vancouverites and the enjoyment of Stanley Park Waters by young and old in a non-polluting, non-motorized way
  • This is the commercialization of Stanley Park waterways, something nobody wants
  • Vancouver is already an unaffordable city that is losing public space… and now we are losing public waterways too
  • The expansion plan was conceived and submitted without adequate consultation with neighboring entities such as the Vancouver Rowing Club
  • This will narrow an already-busy public waterway, making it dangerous for all users of these waters. It may ultimately lead to the demise of the Vancouver Rowing Club that has been here since 1886.

Here’s How You Can Help

  1. Watch the documentary video to learn how the Vancouver Rowing Club would be negatively impacted by the Yacht Club’s proposed expansion.
  2. Share the video by Facebook, Twitter, and Email.
  3. Learn more about the Yacht Club’s proposal by reading their official documents on their website.
  4. Sign our Petition! And consider sharing it on social media as well.
  5. Do you know a stakeholder who will be negatively impacted by this expansion?  Have them get in touch with us!
  6. Or can you help with the campaign through expertise, time, or donations? We are looking for help. Get in touch with the Vancouver Rowing Club’s Coal Harbour Preservation Committee at [email protected]

Watch the Video to Learn More

(Don’t forget to turn on the sound!)

Save Stanley Park Waters Campaign Video: 6 min

Stanley Park's historic waterways are under threat by a Yacht Club expansion plan that would take over *public space* to add 47 more luxury yachts in Coal Harbour. The impacts? The narrowing of an already crowded waterway, more blind spots, and an unsafe marine environment that could end 130 years of rowing in Vancouver. The Vancouver Rowing Club strongly opposes this expansion plan and is mounting a public campaign to fight it… but we need help. Learn more and see how you can help stop the Yacht Club’s expansion at: #savestanleyparkwaters

Posted by Vancouver Rowing Club on Monday, August 5, 2019
If the above video does not play for you, you can view it on youtube

About the Vancouver Rowing Club

The Vancouver Rowing Club is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization with a mandate of promoting amateur sport in the community. In addition to rowing, the Vancouver Rowing Club has programs for Field Hockey, Rugby, and Yachting (separate and distinct from the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club).

There are hundreds of active rowers who are on water an estimated 28,000 times per year.  Membership across all sports is about 1,100.

Contribution to Community

The RVYC expansion plan will greatly hinder the future prospects of the Vancouver Rowing Club that includes:

  • Learn-To-Row programs for both adults and juniors, including local high-school students – approximately 300 per year
  • Junior, Novice, and Competitive rowing
  • Masters, Recreational, and Novice adult rowing
  • Viability of the club overall if rowing disappears

Rowing is an Inclusive Sport

  • Rowing is an affordable and accessible sport for people of all ages.  The Vancouver Rowing Club goes out of its way to ensure that financial means are not a barrier to promising new rowers.
  • Rowing is an active sport that people of all ages can do. The Vancouver Rowing Club currently has members between the ages of 13 to 90.
  • The Vancouver Rowing Club is unique in that many of its members walk, bike, or bus to training. This accessibility is especially important for young rowers.

Representing Canada on the World Stage

We continue to celebrate our club’s past impressive national and international successes which have placed VRC athletes on Canada’s Olympic, Pan American and Commonwealth Games’ teams.

Our club continues to support Junior rowers aspirations. Recently our very own Sophie Byrne-Atkins was selected for the CanAmMex competition.

Regardless of skill, the sense of community among all our members is strong. The Vancouver Rowing Club has been a long-standing site of the city’s sporting and social history, and remains an attraction to visitors of Stanley Park that highlights the importance of supporting heritage sights.

The Vancouver Rowing Club has been in existence in Coal Harbour since 1886 – the same year that Vancouver became a city!

Related Documents

News Release – Summer 2020

Kennedy Stewart letter

Vancouver City Council motion

Spencer Chandra-Herbert letter

Rowing Canada letter

Rowing BC letter

Royal Vancouver Yacht Club’s plans