Stakeholders met in Anacla on Thursday, Nov. 14 to discuss improvements to the Bamfield road. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Province announces $30M plan for deadly Vancouver Island logging road

Gov’t announcement comes as first anniversary of UVic student deaths approaches

Bamfield Road will be getting a $30-million upgrade, one year after two University of Victoria students died when the bus they were riding in rolled off the gravel road.

Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser, also Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, made the announcement Friday, Sept. 11 from Victoria. The province will spend $25.7 million with $5 million coming from the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, whose territory includes Anacla and Bamfield on Vancouver Island’s west coast. The Huu-ay-aht will oversee the project with technical support from consulting firm Urban Systems.

The 76-kilometre unpaved industrial road will be chipsealed, which the Huu-ay-aht determined was the best way to make it safe. Chipsealing will give it a hard surface, but is not the same as paving it. The road is the main ground transportation link between Port Alberni, Bamfield and Anacla for medical, emergency and community access. It is the only road access to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, and is considered the gateway to the West Coast Trail—meaning people from all over the world drive it to get to the trailhead.

READ: John Horgan promises action after fatal mid-Island bus crash

Students John Geerdes of Iowa City, Iowa and Emma MacIntosh Machado, 18, from Winnipeg were en route to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre on Sept. 13, 2019, when their bus rolled off the road and down an embankment. There were 48 people on board, including the driver when the bus crashed at the 36-kilometre mark. Three were airlifted to hospital in critical condition and numerous others were injured.

Following the fatal crash, the provincial government struck a working group with Huu-ay-aht First Nations and local forest companies to discuss safety upgrades.

The UVic students were the latest to die on Bamfield Road, but they weren’t the first. The Huu-ay-aht First Nations have lost eight members over the past two decades to accidents, and more who have been injured. Tayii Hawil (Hereditary Chief) Derek Peters said his grandfather was killed in an accident on Bamfield Road.

“A lot of lives have been lost on that road,” Peters said.

“Our nation was forever changed when Tayii Hawil Art Peters, my grandfather, was killed on Bamfield Road. It is tragic that it took the loss of so many to highlight the need for chipsealing the road, but we honour the ones we have lost by doing everything we can to prevent the loss of life along this vital link in the future.”

Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr. said two people have in the past few months been in collisions with logging trucks due to excessive dust on the gravel road.

Stakeholders have criticized the amount of time it has taken for this announcement. The Huu-ay-aht First Nations, whose territory comprises Anacla, a community right next to Bamfield, have been asking for 20 years for improvements. They have lost eight members in crashes along the road in that time.

Fraser said he has spent 16 years in various political roles trying to get the governments of the day to act. He blamed confusion over jurisdiction for the delay. “It’s fallen through the cracks in the system,” he said.

“What I was told by the previous government is it wasn’t their responsibility because of the ownership issues.”

READ: Forestry watchdog warned B.C. government about Bamfield Road in 2008

Status of the road will not change, he added, although the Huu-ay-aht will oversee maintenance. The road’s designation will also not change despite a recommendation in 2008 by BC Forest Safety Ombudsperson Roger Harris to create a new designation for logging roads that serve as a community’s primary or secondary access road.

Fraser said the announcement is part of the BC government’s COVID revitalization plan. No construction timeline has been set—the treasury board only approved the project a week ago, he noted. “We need to get shovels in the ground very quickly.”



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictBamfieldPORT ALBERNITransportation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

After testing, Island Health deems water safe around industrial fire site

Concerns about water quality arose after Sept. 10-11 fire at Schnitzer facility in Cassidy

Ladysmith Downtown Public Washroom project a semi-finalist for FortisBC grant

If successful, the project will gain $15,000 in funding from FortisBC

Council sets February 2021 as kick off for engagement on Official Community Plan

The scope of the OCP will be ‘comprehensive and new’

Trail proposed to connect Cedar and Yellow Point

The Yellow Point Ecological Society, (YES) is proposing a 22km multi-use trail… Continue reading

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Body discovered floating in water near Lasqueti Island

JRCC reports personnel aboard fishing vessel made the find

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Most Read