We’ve compiled this list of concerns which we feel bear consideration. Many of the items in this list are speculation. We don’t know, for instance, whether the Gabriolan elementary school would close, but we think it’s a possibility.
- Many bridge proponents insist that a bridge would allow Gabriolan high-schoolers to participate in after-school activities, but would this really be the case? The school bus would still leave right after school, so students who wanted to stay later would have to find alternative ways home. Students with their own cars and students getting picked up could stay later, but most students would have to take public transit. Currently, bus service to Cedar is inadequate; bus service to Gabriola would probably be inadequate (if the RDN sent buses out here). If that’s the case, students who stay late after school would get home sooner by catching the ferry than by crossing a bridge.
- The high school closest to Gabriola is John Barsby, not NDSS; Gabriolan high-schoolers might have to change schools. With all the funding cuts to public education, it seems unlikely that SD68 would bus Gabriolan kids past John Barsby and all the way to NDSS.
- The old Cedar high school is now an elementary school. The school board could save money by closing our elementary school and sending our elementary students to the school in Cedar. If our elementary school students had to commute to Cedar, they would be unable to walk to and from school. If their parents were unable to pick them up, they might be unable to participate in after-school activities.
- A bridge to Nanaimo wouldn’t necessarily result in an expanded job market. Currently, people leave Nanaimo in search of work because Nanaimo has a limited job market. Prospective employees have to compete with about 20,000 university students who’re willing to work for stickers and lattes (full disclosure: I attended VIU until a couple years ago).
- Many small-islanders walk on the ferry to jobs in downtown Nanaimo. These people would have to drive across the bridge and through Cedar, take public transit, lose their jobs, or move to Nanaimo. Remember, there’s no guarantee that public bus service to/from Mudge and Gabriola would be adequate.
- Many small-islanders walk on the ferry to jobs elsewhere in Nanaimo. The bus service to downtown Nanaimo is excellent; these people can catch buses from there to other areas of Nanaimo. How would a bridge to Cedar affect their ability to commute to and from work?
Concerning Property Values
- Some people think a bridge would raise property values on Mudge and Gabriola. This could be true, but rising property values aren’t good for everyone. Gabriola’s and Mudge’s low property values allow people of different income levels to buy land on the islands. We also have many sustainable, small-scale farms; if property values went up, some small-scale farmers could get pushed off the island. Gentrification is rarely good for farmers. We should also consider that elderly people with fixed incomes may be unable to pay their property taxes if property values go up.
Concerning the Environment
- How would a bridge affect the ocean floor? We have sensitive ecological and archeological sites on the ocean floor around here; would the government be respectful of those sites?
- <What about the environmental impact of a sudden increase in tourists and residents? Gabriola and Mudge have limited capacities for people, houses, septic systems, wells and other ecological impacts. How would we mitigate negative impacts on the islands' ecologies?
- A bridge could result in an increase in vehicle traffic; most people would probably drive across in personal vehicles. How would an increase in vehicle traffic affect our air quality?
Concerning Public Transit
- Would someone send buses buses to Mudge and Gabriola? The RDN? GERTIE?
- What might the schedule be like? What about the evening schedule?
- If the bus schedule were inadequate, might that result in an increase in vehicle traffic?
- Have you considered whether there might be a toll to drive across? What might that toll be?
- If the bridge were rendered impassable by an earthquake or a traffic accident, islanders without boats would be unable to leave Mudge/Gabriola.
- The community on Gabriola is unique due to the reality of the ferry. People live here/moved here knowing that this is a ferry-dependent community. How might a bridge affect Gabriola’s population and sub-culture?
- Whatever impact a bridge would have on Gabriola and Mudge, it could not be undone.
We think a bridge would have a profound effect on our tiny islands. Whether or not you want a bridge, we have a lot more to talk about than just how much a bridge would cost.