Members of Port Alberni city council are concerned about backcountry access. ELENA RARDON PHOTO.

Members of Port Alberni city council are concerned about backcountry access. ELENA RARDON PHOTO.

City of Port Alberni jumps into locked gate fray

Council will invite Island Timberlands, TimberWest to discuss backcountry access issues

Port Alberni city council will be inviting forestry companies to council regarding restricted back road access across the Alberni Valley.

The topic was brought forward by Coun. Chris Alemany at the end of the Oct. 10 meeting of council, when he suggested that city staff write letters to the Minister of Forests, forestry companies and Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser. Council discussed it further this Monday, Oct. 23.

“What it stems from is concern in the community about access to logging roads and our wilderness areas around the city,” said Alemany. “There’s tons of reports on social media of people being locked out behind gates.”

Councillor Jack McLeman suggested inviting Island Timberlands and TimberWest to a meeting of council to discuss the policies of the two companies and to hear the public complaints.

“I personally don’t like the concept of just writing letters,” he said. “There is a policy of access. Let’s find out what it is.”

He added that Island Timberlands has a blog (available at blog.islandtimberlands.com) where hours and access to various roads are posted.

However, a few posts on social media claim that the gates are being closed regardless of the listed hours.

Mayor Mike Ruttan said that he has spoken to a representative from Island Timberlands, who gave the impression they would be “more than willing” to come.

Alemany agreed with the idea, but wanted to send the letters, as well.

“I know Scott Fraser has already been in contact with Island Timberlands,” he said. “I think coordinating with him and covering all those bases is important.”

Fraser posted on Facebook on Oct. 15 that he has compiled the stories that constituents have brought to his attention regarding back country access, and plans to meet with Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson and Island Timberlands president Darshan Sihota in the hopes of resolving the issue.

elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com