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

$30M plan announced to make Bamfield Road safer

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

One in custody after assault, barricade in Esquimalt Road residence

Victoria police closed down portion of the road Wednesday night during incident

Light the City takes root in Greater Victoria as pandemic cancels holiday favourite parade, convoy

Five weeks of drive-thru events fill void of IEOA annual Truck Light Convoy, Santa Claus Parade

Sidney council signals support for recreational cannabis store

A 6-1 vote sends application forward for final approval from province

Blackberry festival moves forward with drive-thru in Metchosin

Event takes place on Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Lessons from a pandemic: How to design a nursing home that’s safe and love-filled

A look at how one care home is battling the pandemic with the social needs of the elderly in their care

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. salmon farm opponents demand answers from DFO

First Nations, conservation groups dismayed by omission of sea lice in risk assessments

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

B.C. VOTES 2020: Businesses now owe $6 billion in deferred tax payments

COVID-19 relief from remittance to province ends with September

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

Most Read