The harbour manager at Silver Islet says Fisheries and Oceans Canada's closure of the big dock on Lake Superior because of structural concerns has created a new safety issue.

Scott Atkinson said he is worried barricades and signs erected on the main pier will keep passing boaters from seeking refuge in bad weather.

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The harbour manager at Silver Islet on the Sibley Peninsula near Thunder Bay is worried barricades and signs erected on the main pier will keep passing boaters from seeking refuge in bad weather. Matt Prokopchuk/CBC

"I'm not going to chase them off there if we get a storm," he said. "When it blows in, you tie up any place that's safe. But [if] people come along and see a great big 'keep off' sign there, they're liable to continue on in weather and conditions which may not be just the best."

The dock could also serve as an escape route if the Sibley peninsula ever needed to be evacuated — and could help get people to safety if a forest fire were to close the road.

"Should you get a fire on the peninsula ... with a north wind blowing … it's very difficult to get 2,000 people out [of] here by helicopter, so they have to go by boat, and a big boat can't get in there now because it's all blocked off. There's only one highway in [and] one highway out," Atkinson said.

"We live on the end of a peninsula, [and that] makes things exceedingly difficult and ... dangerous, as far as I'm concerned."

Looking at options

Atkinson said he's confident the government will eventually rebuild the dock, adding he hopes nothing happens until then.

A spokesperson for Fisheries and Oceans Canada says the department is still looking at options for the dock, including turning it over to a community group like the Silver Islet Campers' Association.

"Those talks are preliminary," said Dean Calder, acting regional director of Small Craft Harbours in the Central and Arctic Regions for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

"We've just met later in the spring … to discuss potential options for the facility."

Atkinson remarked that, because of the large dock's closure, he and members of the yacht club put in several small "finger docks" along the shore where residents can tie their boats. Those docks are now full.