03/05/2015 02:45 EST | Updated 05/05/2015 05:59 EDT

Barnston Island residents want to see ferry replaced with a bridge

Many residents of Barnston Island want a bridge to connect their small community to the mainland — saying they need better access to emergency services.

“I have neighbours that have actually moved off the island,” said longtime Barnston resident Jennifer Hoffman. 

“One neighbour, she was pregnant and she went off the island two weeks before the due date just in case. Because, once the ferry is shut down, you have to call the RCMP and they have to get a captain to come over. It can be a two hour stretch.”

The island is located on the Fraser River between Surrey and Pitt Meadows.

There is a small ferry that makes dozens of trips a day between Surrey and Barnston Island, but it is closed between 12:55 a.m. and 6:15 a.m. PT.

Metro Vancouver reached out to Barnston Island farmers and members of the Katzie First Nation last year to find out what kind of challenges they were facing. Accessibility was the number one issue. 

Farmers say it’s difficult to attract and retain staff because the island is hard to get to, and shipping and receiving goods can be a nightmare.

Metro Vancouver staff are studying whether the ferry should run 24 hours a day, remain as is or be replaced with a bridge.

Worries that bridge will lead to industrialization

Some fear building a permanent link to to the 1,400 acre island would encourage developers to re-examine whether the area can be developed.

The majority of Barnston Island is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, but there was an attempt in the past to turn a large section of farmland into an industrial park.

District Director for Electoral Area A — which includes Barnston Island — Maria Harris,  doesn’t want to see that happen again.

“We know we’ve got huge pressure on our land, because we have so little of it, and we need to do whatever we can to preserve farmland for future generations," said Harris.

"Whether or not the economics are there right now is not so important to me, but I think we need to maintain the option for future generations."

Harris said she will wait for the report from Metro Vancouver before she decides whether she will support 24-hour ferry service, a bridge or no change to the current system.

Ferry would be missed by day trippers

Barnston Island only has a population of 140, and on a sunny afternoon, residents can be outnumbered by cyclists who have taken the ferry over for a day trip.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Laurie Archibald, who was out on a cycling trip with a group of her friends. “It’s fun. It’s so short and it adds to the charm of the whole visit.”

Metro Vancouver’s report on Barnston Island will be completed later this spring.​

To hear more about the plea for a bridge to Barnston Island, click the audio labelled: Barnston Island residents want to see ferry replaced with a bridge.