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For Immediate Release
April 19, 2022

VOLUNTEERISM AT ITS BEST
MEET YOUR BOWEN ISLAND FERRY ADVISORY COMMITTEE CHAIR


VICTORIA – It’s a long haul from the landlocked Swiss Alps to the cozy ferry dependent community of Bowen Island, but somehow, Melanie Mason and her family found their way.

“We actually landed in North Vancouver when we moved from Switzerland about nine years ago,” explains Mason. “But it only took us six months to realize that was not the lifestyle we were looking for. The lifestyle we wanted we found on Bowen Island.”

A wife and a mother to two children, it didn’t take long before Mason became invested in the community and the issues that surround island life.

“I love being here on the Island and spending time with my family and because of that we’re really invested in what happens on Bowen,” Mason adds. “I was on council for four years and took a run at the mayor’s seat. We don’t just live here; we care about and are part of this community.”

April 24-28, 2022 is National Volunteer Week across Canada, a time to celebrate people like Mason who has been the Bowen Island Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) Chair since 2018. ‘Empathy in Action’ is the theme of this year’s Volunteer Week. It draws attention to how volunteers build awareness around the experiences of different community members and build capacity to work collectively together towards common goals.

We have great diversity on our FAC and that’s important; not just demographic diversity, but a range of issues and values. It gives everyone a chance to walk in other people’s shoes, share in their experiences and it results in creative solutions,” says Mason.

FAC Chairs and members work year-round to provide BC Ferries with advice and insight that helps inform day-to-day operations, terminal and vessel improvements, schedule changes, and other initiatives. There are no days off for an FAC Chair. They answer emails, phone calls, and questions from community members 24/7.

“The community insight and understanding that our Ferry Advisory Committees provide us with is invaluable. We rely on them not only for community-centred advice, but also helping us get information out to the community, especially when changes are afoot,” says Brian Anderson, Vice President of Strategy and Community Engagement. “The Committees do a phenomenal job and we are grateful for their dedication and the long hours we know they put in to their work with us.”

Despite the long hours and heavy lifting, being a FAC chair has been a rewarding experience for Mason. “I’m especially proud of the network we built during the annual refit/mid life upgrade of the Queen of Capilano,” she explains.

“The community needed to adapt quickly to the Bowen Queen, a much smaller ferry than we were used to, but it got the Bowen Express bus going and timed with the ferry schedule and water taxi,” she adds. “We were also able to brainstorm parking solutions and develop the smaller ferry survival guide. It was a tremendous collaboration with local services, the municipality and BC Ferries.”

Like any good volunteer group, the Bowen Island FAC celebrates its successes and then quickly turns their attention to the next challenge; the after-effects of the pandemic, ongoing terminal upgrades at Horseshoe Bay and now the return of peak travel are all still ahead for the group. As Mason thinks about the challenges in front of them, she remarks, “We’re going to need to come up with some creative solutions.”


FAC Facts:
  • There are 13 Ferry Advisory Committees situated in communities up and down the coast of British Columbia.
  • Committees are generally made of up of 8-12 members who represent ferry dependent communities.
  • FAC members bring a wide variety of voices and perspectives to the table. A committee’s composition depends on the community, and often includes representatives such as: fulltime and part-time residents, the tourism industry, commuters, seniors, businesses, commercial goods and service providers, and many more.
  • This past year, FAC members have helped with:
    • Understanding the complex use of ferry service in the Southern Gulf Islands
    • Developing new schedules for two-ship service for Gabriola Island and Quadra Island
    • Adjusting and communicating service and schedule changes during pandemic recovery
    • Providing early input on Terminal Development Plans

 
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Media Contact:
BC Ferries, Media Relations
Victoria: (250) 978-1267

Customer Contact:
Victoria: (250) 410-1465
Toll-free: 1-888-BCFERRY (1-888-223-3779)

Note to newsrooms: For urgent media inquiries off-hours, call our off-hours line at (250) 516-7211.
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