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

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

The Rogers Creek Trail main trailhead is located on the Redford Extension in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Hiker rescued after cold few hours in the bush outside Port Alberni

Alberni Valley Rescue Squad said they receive frequent calls for people lost on this trail

Helma Swinkels, left, from Bibi J’s is all smiles as she makes her first donation under the new business name to Ellen Frood from Alberni Community and Women’s Services (ACAWS). In 18 sales days, Swinkels was able to donate $3,000 to the transition house. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Bibi J’s in Port Alberni makes first donation to non-profit

Alberni Women and Community Services to benefit

Alberta premier Jason Kenney announced that Red Deer and other rural locations would soon be getting doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. (photography by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
EDITORIAL: Leading by example

Those in leadership roles need to follow the restrictions they impose on others

Melissa Martin from the Rollin Art Centre holds two paintings from the Rollin Art Centre’s permanent collection: an original portrait painted by the late Robert Aller, and a mixed media piece called ‘House’ from Peggy Larson that was part of Aller’s private collection. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre to re-open February 2

Newest exhibit will feature some pieces from permanent collection

Rik Abel has opened Rik’s Picks, a vintage record shop on Johnston Road. (TERESA BIRD / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BIZ BEAT: Port Alberni businesses get innovative during pandemic

See what’s new in the Port Alberni business community

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Nanaimo RCMP are seeking the public’s help after a man allegedly assaulted a clerk at James General Store on Victoria Road on Jan. 18. (Submitted photo)
Suspect screams at customer then assaults store clerk in Nanaimo

RCMP asking for information about Jan. 18 incident at James General Store

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Most Read