10/29/2014 02:06 EDT | Updated 12/29/2014 05:59 EST

Gabriola Island Bridge project prompts new opposition from residents

A group of Gabriola Island residents called 'Bridge-Free Salish Sea' is planning to mount a petition campaign to gauge concerns over how a new bridge to Gabriola Island could change life in the remote B.C. community.

Last month, Transportation Minister Todd Stone announced a provincial study to look at the idea of building a bridge to Gabriola Island to replace BC Ferries' service to the Southern Gulf Island.

Steve O'Neill, who is part of the new group opposed to the plan, fears it would mean rapid development on the small island.

"There's something very exceptional about this community and we really believe that part of that is due to the fact that we are on a ferry system," said O'Neill.

"I think most of us who live here really treasure the very rural quality of life on Gabriola, it's a very small community."

The government study, which was announced after a pro-bridge petition gathered 600 signatures, will examine potential locations, provide a cost estimate, and make a cost comparison with the existing ferry service.

Jeremy Baker, who led the pro-bridge petition drive, says he's confident that with rising ferry fares and cuts to ferry services that opinion among the 4,000 residents on the island has shifted in favour of a bridge.

"I don't see the negative like a lot of people. The jobs are needed," said Baker.

The Ministry of Transportation says it is still in the final stages of hiring an independent consultant to carry out the study in the upcoming spring.

Google Map: Gabriola Island, B.C.