The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District has thrown its support behind the Huu-ay-aht First Nation in its push for a circle route connecting Bamfield and Anacla to Port Alberni and the Cowichan Valley.
Huu-ay-aht representative John Jack said they would be working with the Ditidaht First Nation, whose traditional territory runs from Lake Cowichan to the west coast, encompassing Cowichan Lake and Nitinat Lake.
The route, Jack said, would improve existing roads between Port Alberni, Bamfield, Anacla and Duncan, the closest city to the Ditidaht.
Jack said talks between the Huu-ay-aht and the Ditidaht have taken place.
“My first nation, specifically through Chief Councillor Jeff Cook, has previously met with representatives of the Ditidaht First Nation in regards to an initiative to improve the roads between our communities and the more populated part of the Island,” Jack said.
The Huu-ay-aht First Nation met with the Cowichan Valley Regional District on May 13 to discuss the idea.
Cook told the CVRD that he hoped the road would help the Huu-ay-aht attract business and lure the 85 per cent of Huu-ay-aht citizens who currently live off-reserve back to their treaty lands.
“What we’re trying to focus on is improving the west coast Vancouver Island road,” said Huu-ay-aht executive director James Edwards.
“So the road through Cowichan, through Cowichan Lake, into Nitinat and on into Port Alberni and Bamfield.”
According to Edwards, the Huu-ay-aht are gaining traction at the provincial level.
“We’ve been talking about this road for the better part of 30 years but we think we’re starting to get some traction now,” said Edwards, referring to plans to improve the road out to Bamfield and Anacla.
“We’ve spoken at length with the provincial government and we know while there’s an interest— in fact they’ve been very clear that it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when—we just want to make sure that the when is soon,” Edwards said. The circle route the Huu-ay-aht and the Ditidaht are currently pursuing is an amalgamation of an improved road out to Bamfield and an alternate route out of the Alberni Valley, he added.
Edwards said that the Huu-ay-aht wanted to ensure that any road considered by the provincial government during their $100,000 business case review of an alternate route out of the Alberni Valley included Bamfield and Cowichan.
Lake Cowichan director Bob Day told the Huu-ay-aht delegation that adding the new route to the region’s existing road network “would most certainly benefit not only our communities but yours as well.”