Belinda Nookemus of Huu-ay-aht First Nations works in the nation’s forestry industry. (PHOTO COURTESY HUU-AY-AHT)

Road to recovery remains unpaved for Huu-ay-aht First Nations

Huu-ay-aht First Nations say Paving Bamfield Road will be key to its post-COVID-19 success

The largest obstacle Huu-ay-aht First Nations are facing after the coronavirus pandemic is 85 kilometres long and covered in gravel.

“The big thing for us is the road,” said Trevor Cootes, a member of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations executive council. Cootes has overseen the economic development portfolio for the past five years. “That is the biggest thing to our economic recovery.”

Bamfield is located at the end of Bamfield Main logging road, and there are only two ways in—both on active gravel logging roads, either from Port Alberni or Duncan.

Since the Bamfield Main opened in the 1970s Huu-ay-aht have lost eight citizens on the road and witnessed countless accidents, many relating to dust obscuring visibility, Chief Robert Dennis Sr. said.

“Chip seal is the road to safety. It will eliminate the dust issue. Seventy percent of the users use the road during tourist season from May to September; they’re using it when it is most dusty. Dust can be very dangerous.”

The road can also be dangerous when the weather is wet. Nine months ago a tragic accident claimed the life of two University of Victoria students when a bus carrying dozens of students hit a soft shoulder in the road and rolled. The bus was on its way to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.

Since then, the Huu-ay-aht and province of B.C. have been negotiating to have the road paved.

Safety may be the first issue with the road, but economic recovery is the second, Dennis said.

“Once we’re able to get a better road then we can start focusing on tourism.”

The Huu-ay-aht Group of Businesses comprises 13 tourism-related businesses in Bamfield, adjacent to the Huu-ay-aht’s traditional village centre, Anacla. The road is the backbone to the coastal economy, said Huu-ay-aht CEO Patrick Schmidt.

Planning events can be an impediment when people are reluctant to make the drive. While marine access is available—Lady Rose Marine Services has regular passenger and cargo traffic via the MV Frances Barkley—there is still the issue of getting around once you’re in Bamfield.

“The key is making sure people feel safe going down that road without any issues to their vehicles.”

The Bamfield businesses were on the road to profitability when the coronavirus pandemic hit. The market was considered an essential service, but the other tourism-based businesses have suffered. The Huu-ay-aht qualified for federal wage funding, which has helped. The nation chose to close the area to tourism under the advice of the provincial health officer, and will follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s direction before opening up again, Dennis said.

The Huu-ay-aht’s forestry interests have given the nation economic diversity. The Huu-ay-aht have partnered with Western Forest Products, and in late May Huu-ay-aht announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Mosaic Forest Management, affirming their commitment to reconciliation, sustainability and adherence to Huu-ay-aht values on its traditional territory (known as “Hahuuli”).

They are also looking at a $37-million run-of-river hydro project in the Sarita River area that could generate revenue for the next 40 years.

This diversification follows an economic study completed in 1997 that suggested the nation focus on forestry, tourism and aquaculture development. “We are focusing on two of those,” Dennis said.

Aquaculture development could be next. “We’re having serious discussions on how we can advance aquaculture quickly, through potential partnerships in shellfish,” Schmidt said.

BamfieldFirst NationsIndigenous

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


Businesses the Huu-ay-aht First Nations own will qualify for the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy as a result of COVID-19 measures. (PHOTO COURTESY HFN)

Just Posted

Smokey Port painted by D.F. Gray during the eighth annual Paint Out. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni’s DRAW Gallery celebrates art online and in person

Fall in Love With Art! exhibit runs until Nov. 27

Mount Arrowsmith rises over the City of Port Alberni in its late summer splendour. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
More funding available through Alberni Valley Community Foundation

$30K available for charities responding to COVID-19; deadline is Oct. 30

Alberni District Secondary School principal Rob Souther, ADSS Breakfast Club Coordinator Melody Burton, Andrew Johns and employees William Dorr and Erika Salvino celebrate Johns’ donation of $5,000 to the breakfast club. (SONJA DRINKWATER/ Special to the AV News)
SCENE AND HEARD: Feeding Alberni Valley residents one dollar at a time

Local organizations benefit from charitable donations

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Most Read