For two full weekends in July and August, Gibsons had the distinction of having its first ever blimp uprisings. As part of the crew, I had a great time doing exactly what I wanted to be doing—getting information out to the community, having fun with my friends. Plus I had a totally amazing view of the fireworks!
The weekend of Gibsons Sea Cavalcade saw the first raising of the blimp we have affectionately come to call "George Blimpton." It sure turned a lot of heads, craned a lot of necks, and started a dialogue and exchanges ranging from accusatory to congratulatory. Fortunately for those of us who were part of the blimp crew, most of the comments and questions were kind and inquisitive with lots of thumbs up from passersby and genuine concern about the height of the proposed George Hotel and Residences. Of course, the occasional George supporter seized the opportunity to accuse and attack, but we were not there to engage in that kind of behaviour. We had a mission and it was simple: get the truth out about the height of the George for all to see for themselves.
We figured out early on that George Blimpton could only stay aloft until some time between 11 am and noon as the wind starts to pick up around this time of morning and made controlling the blimp more difficult. Not wanting to take any safety risks, we lowered the blimp till late afternoon. Then from about 5 pm till dark, the blimp danced above Gibsons again.
On the weekend of the International Howe Sound Outrigger Race and the Art Stroll, we decided to raise George Blimpton again. Like the Saturday two weeks before, at 7:00 am sharp up went the blimp to its lofty 125-foot height. On both weekends, during the multiple raising and lowering of our 17-foot-long, 500-square-foot helium friend, a crew of four manoeuvred the three guy lines and the main tie-down line—and up the blimp floated.
We exercised great care and attention to accuracy in setting up this blimp exhibition. Starting from sea level at high tide, a laser level was used to measure the height of the ground where the blimp was anchored. At the lower end, the anchor that secured the blimp’s tethering line to the ground was 4 feet above sea level. At the top, the distance from the red line on the blimp to where the multiple securing lines joined to form the single centre tethering line was 10 feet. One hundred and eleven feet of the main tethering line was then measured out, with fluttering green ribbons indicating 10-foot intervals. This 111-foot main line spooled out to raise and lower the blimp. Thus, 4+10+111 feet = 125 feet—the very height of the proposed George Hotel.
Our measuring was videotaped for veracity in case anyone cares to challenge the authenticity of the height. Over the course of the two weekends, we did have a couple of doubters each of whom had our method patiently explained or demonstrated to them. All but one angry man, who insisted on shouting rude comments at us, left feeling satisfied that we had taken proper care to be precise and authentic.
The blimp was visible from all over Gibson’s Landing. It could clearly be seen flying high from Dougall Park, from along Gower Point Road, from the Bluff, and of course from South Fletcher, Sargeant, Abbs, and School Roads.
It could be seen from George Gibson’s statue at five corners and even from Marine Drive at Armour’s Beach.
From the vantage point of the laneway alongside Molly's Reach restaurant, one could easily imagine just by seeing the 125-foot height of the blimp how the size, breadth, and scope, i.e., the mass of the proposed George Hotel would eliminate the view of the bluff and how this project would absolutely dwarf in size and scale anything that currently exists in Lower G and Gibsons harbour, not to mention obliterate what is allowed in the current OCP and Harbour Plan. How some members of this council and town staff have let this proposed project get to this point of consideration is beyond me. Personally, I don't think George Gibson would approve.
We spoke to many off-coast visitors in town for the Outrigger Race, the Art Stroll, and other reasons. They came from Vancouver, the lower mainland, Squamish, Jasper, Washington, Oregon, California, and even Hawaii. Almost universally these out-of-towners expressed sadness, shock, and dismay that Gibsons is even considering the idea of building something that is so out of character with the town that several had been visiting for decades. Some stated they were so appalled at this proposal they would most likely find somewhere else to visit and stay if this project is approved.
Many local residents we spoke to over the course of the two weekends were only just realizing the actual height and scale of this development. It was coming home to them that, should this project be approved, we will lose the village character that we have come to love and cherish and that makes Gibsons such a unique and beautiful place to live and visit. Eventually we would lose the shoreline to mega-development all the way from the marina to Armour’s Beach.
This weekend many local residents on the aforementioned streets came down to the blimp exhibition site as they realized the profound impact that this project would have on their views of the water, islands, trees, mountains, and sky, not to mention on the value of their homes which would be negatively impacted with the loss of view. These folks expressed sincere gratitude for the time and energy GABC expends getting the information out to the community.
In fact, we were thanked many times as people from far and near encouraged us to keep up the good fight—and never give up.
By raising this blimp, we at GABC feel we have raised awareness amongst a growing legion of residents, visitors, and tourists who do not want to see a project of this size destroy the seaside feel of this beautiful town called Gibsons. Informed residents who have misgivings and concerns about this project can share and express them in the next couple of months at upcoming meetings of council—and at the required public hearing should this ill-advised project actually get that far.
The blimp has been a fun and creative way to get people to stop and talk about the issues. Who doesn't love a blimp? Everyone loves a blimp! I think it has been a positive vehicle to open a dialogue as compared to an “us-versus-them,” we-support-the-George sign mentality. Over the two weekends that we set up this height exhibition, and also during the demonstration in March with helium balloons, we at GABC have spoken to hundreds of people who have come to trust that we strive to get the facts straight and to accurately inform people what is going on in Gibsons. We listen to what the concerns of people are and are not demonizing those who don't agree with us. Really, at the end of the day there is just “us.”
When will George Blimpton rise again? Soon enough. It won't be hard to spot.
By: Nick Caputo