The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District will be taking a broader look at transit service in rural areas after receiving some negative feedback about a potential Sproat Lake bus route.
Directors at an Alberni Valley & Bamfield Services Committee meeting on Wednesday, May 6 voted in favour of a potential bus route between Sproat Lake Provincial Park and Walmart in Port Alberni. At that time, BC Transit representatives said that there was not much support for bus routes in the other regional districts, like Beaver Creek and Cherry Creek.
During the Wednesday, May 13 ACRD regular board meeting, the proposal was brought forward again. If approved, the Sproat Lake to Walmart route would have been added to BC Transit’s three-year Transit Improvement Plan for further consideration. The route wouldn’t be implemented until at least 2023.
“It’s going to take a lot of time to flesh this out and bring this to fruition,” said environmental services manager Rob Williams on Wednesday.
Penny Cote, the ACRD director for Sproat Lake, said she could not support the proposal due to negative feedback she has received from her community.
“There’s a perceived notion that this will be a city bus…to bring the criminal element out,” said Cote. “At this point with the objections I am receiving from the community…I’d like to defer this initiative to a later date.”
A petition has been started on change.org by Sproat Lake resident Nile Verbrugge, asking the ACRD to stop the BC Transit bus route to Sproat Lake. The petition states that Sproat Lake residents “do not want the added negative impacts of public transit coming out to the rural areas.” Some of these negative impacts noted in the petition include increased crime, increased taxes and the presence of drugs, needles and “homeless people.”
The petition had more than 200 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon, May 13, 2020.
ACRD director Sharie Minions said she was “really disappointed” with the petition and some of the comments.
“To me, it read, ‘We don’t want people who are living in poverty coming out to our lake,’” she said. “To me, that is a very disappointing and upsetting mentality. I would like to continue with exploring if it is a service we want or not…and I don’t think we should let some of those stereotypical comments stop us from exploring a service.”
Cote agreed that she was also “disappointed” in the comments.
“I’ve spent a lot of time trying to talk to the residents of my area, trying to explain what the intention is,” she said. “There’s no support from the community members.”
Beaufort director Tanya Shannon said she would like to see more public engagement. The BC Transit public engagement session in October 2019 only had 32 respondents.
“To me, it was not very well attended,” said Shannon.
Beaver Creek director John McNabb also expressed his doubt that Beaver Creek residents would be willing to pay for a service that does not benefit them at all.
The board voted on Wednesday to bring the proposal back to an Alberni Valley & Bamfield Services Committee meeting for “broader” discussions about an Alberni Valley-wide transit service, rather than just Sproat Lake.
Williams said that ACRD staff will reach out to BC Transit to talk about extending transit service to areas like Cherry Creek, Beaver Creek and Beaufort, as well.