A Sproat Lake resident wants the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) to lobby the Ministry of Transportation to have the lake’s road status upgraded.
Gail Horvath, at a Jan. 11 ACRD board of directors meeting, presented to board members addressing the need of maintenance on Sproat Lake roads.
“We have four main roads at the lake,” Horvath said. “Every lake resident utilizes one or more of these roads to take them to the highway each day.”
Horvath said there’s about 880 homes around Sproat Lake with many occupants having two or more vehicles and require two or more trips a day into Port Alberni.
“This totals more than 7,000 trips per day of local traffic on these four roads,” Horvath said. “Our 20-year fix of chip sealing on Stirling Arm and McCoy Lake Road is already falling apart. Our ditches and streams adjacent to the road are full of gravel and the topcoat is crumbing. It was poorly applied with inadequate equipment.”
Horvath pointed out that there were several occurrences of heavy snowfall throughout December in the Sproat Lake area when roads needed plowing. She said Emcon was contacted on multiple occasions but at times it took more than 18 hours before a plow went down Faber Road and Stirling Arm Drive.
“On Dec. 9 it started snowing heavy in this region, on the 11th the main roads had still not been plowed or salted at the lake. People were having to stay overnight in town as they could not get home or so they could get to work,” she said.
Horvath said Joe Van Bergen, who is the Sproat Lake Community Association’s road representative, has attended meetings with Emcon and annual road inspection tours with highway representatives where he’s pointed out shortfalls in Sproat Lake road conditions and lack of follow-through on resident concerns.
“For three years Joe has requested that centre lines be painted on the lake roads due to safety concerns. There are no shoulders on these roads, steep ditches in many areas and they have now been top coated right to the edge of the ditch in areas on Stirling Arm Drive,” Horvath said. “There was money in the budget this past year, the commitment was made to do the work. It didn’t get done.”
Although Horvath realizes the Ministry of Transportation holds the contract with Emcon she believes the ACRD still needs to take responsibility for the safety of its citizens.
“The ACRD should have a board member or an administrative assistant who is responsible for the safety of its residents,” Horvath said. “This means that somebody in the regional district should be responsible for ensuring our road conditions are kept safe and secondly, that road statuses are adequate for the traffic loads they carry.”
Russel Dyson, ACRD chief administrative officer, said the regional district has no authority over the roads, but rather that they are under provincial authority—and the provincial ministry has a contract with Emcon for maintenance and upgrades.
“The only responsibility or available measure for the regional district is its lobbying efforts which have been used in the past to write letters and request accountability to ask for standards to be met,” Dyson said.
Mike Kokura, ACRD Beaufort director, reiterated that when it comes to road maintenance the regional district can essentially assist only with lobbying.
“I agree with you that Emcon hasn’t been doing the work that they should be doing but I think if groups out Sproat Lake or Beaufort or Cherry Creek or Beaver Creek or Bamfield are hard pressed on something and are dealing with Emcon and the provincial government and they can’t get anywhere, then they can come to the regional district to get an extra push and some lobbying for them,” Kokura said.
In her letter to ACRD board members, Horvath cites the Local Government Act, stating that the legal framework and foundation for the establishment and continuation of local governments to represent the interests and respond to the needs of their communities.
“If you know that there’s safety concerns out at the lake and the province doesn’t know that there’s safety concerns, nobody is looking after our needs,” Horvath said. “It is up to the ACRD to take those needs and safety concerns forward.”