The announcement by B.C. Parks that a well-travelled portion of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail will be closed until late June has business owners in Port Renfrew throwing up their hands in frustration.
“It seems the universe has it out for Port Renfrew. Between the fishing closures, the logging of old growth forest adjacent to the trail and now this … what’s next?” said Jon Cash, the co-owner of Soule Creek Lodge in Port Renfrew.
“At least half of our customers come to hike the trail and pretty much all our business is related to the forests, the Juan de Fuca Trail, and Botanical Beach Provincial Park. This is another hit we’re going to take.”
The 26-kilometre section of the trail between Mystic Beach and East Sombrio Beach closed in February with the Environment Ministry citing a high level of use of the trail and damage done by winter storms.
Ministry officials said difficulties were encountered replacing a stair section of the trail south of Sombrio Beach.
That stair system is located at the 21-kilometre section of the trail and no detour is available.
Dan Hager, the president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, said some B.C. Parks workers on the trail were aware of a problem with a scheduled April re-opening as far back as February.
“I was hiking out there in late February and ran into workers who told me that they doubted that they had the manpower or resources to get the repairs done (by April),” Hagar said.
“They should have done a better job of letting the businesses going to be affected know what was happening. This will have a real economic impact in the area.”
Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks is also critical of the province’s handling of the situation
“This is absolutely amazingly poor planning,” Hicks said.
“They could have done this stuff during the winter when few, if any, hikers are out there instead of taking away access during the tourist season. They should have been talking to local businesses.”
Hicks said the trail closure will affect Port Renfrew’s economy and may do lasting harm to the region’s tourist industry.
“The province has to be much more aware of the ramifications of its actions. Once a tourist cancels their plans and decides to go somewhere else, that’s a long-lasting effect. They may not come back,” Hicks said.
Hick’s worries tourists will find other places to visit, leaving Port Renfrew in the cold, was supported by Randel Pickelein, the owner of Mystic Beach Adventures. His company guides tourists along the Juan de Fuca Trail but will probably be taking tourists to East Sooke Park and elsewhere now.
“Personally, I think the trail is in the wrong hands,” Pickelein said. He recited a series of recent missteps that BC. Parks has made on the trail.
And while Ryan Chamberlain, the president of the Sooke to Port Renfrew Tourist Association, isn’t calling on the provincial government to turn over the trail to a different authority, he agrees the job done by the province is inadequate.
“This is just another example of extremely bad communication and community planning in the coastal communities,” Chamberlain said.
“The B.C. government needs to start taking action to protect the fragile economies of these communities. It’s time they started allocating enough money to safeguard and maintain the activities that keep these communities going.”