Bowerman Excavating owner Craig Bowerman, then-Port Alberni Mayor Mike Ruttan and former city manager of operations Wilf Taekema stand in front of the newly widened Dry Creek, and newly built trail alongside it, behind Smitty’s Restaurant on Third Avenue on May 3, 2016. (KATYA SLEPIAN/ Alberni Valley News)

Bowerman Excavating owner Craig Bowerman, then-Port Alberni Mayor Mike Ruttan and former city manager of operations Wilf Taekema stand in front of the newly widened Dry Creek, and newly built trail alongside it, behind Smitty’s Restaurant on Third Avenue on May 3, 2016. (KATYA SLEPIAN/ Alberni Valley News)

‘New’ Dry Creek path falls into disrepair in Port Alberni

City’s land access contracts lapse as condition of pathway beside creek deteriorates

In five short years, a path the City of Port Alberni built beside the Dry Creek flood abatement corridor has fallen into disrepair. And the city has lost access to clean it up, says a former city employee.

Former public works supervisor Randy Fraser is asking why city council didn’t plan better when they built the path. “It is really inexcusable that a brand-new project that had such promise was so neglected and left to rot,” Fraser said in a letter to council.

The city spent $2.7 million in 2015-16 widening Dry Creek between Fourth and Third Avenues, appropriating a building and widening the irrigation ditch behind Smitty’s Restaurant and Budget Rentals. The work was designed to mitigate flooding in that area of the city during king tides and big storms. The design included a path beside the irrigation ditch that people could use to avoid walking along Third Avenue.

Now, the creek is becoming overgrown with vegetation, is littered with trash and the path is in similar shape. Fraser worries any Quay to Quay pathway in the same area will be treated similarly.

“Any maintenance work that has been done is usually on a complaints basis because, historically, the city is always reactive rather than proactive,” he wrote.

READ MORE: Dry Creek flood mitigation close to complete

READ MORE: City purchases Jade Restaurant for $293K for flood mitigation work

READ MORE: City to acquire land as part of Dry Creek improvements

City CAO Tim Pley said the issue is complicated because the city doesn’t own the property where the path is located.

The city had access contracts with both Island Timberlands and Western Forest Products that enabled them to legally go on the easements to keep up maintenance. Fraser told the AV News the contracts indicate the city was to keep the lands in a state of repair “acceptable to both WFP and IT,” and upon termination of the contracts that the land would be left in “an acceptable condition.”

However those contracts lapsed in January 2020 without renewal. Pley said he didn’t know why they weren’t renewed. “It seemed unusual for them to time out like that.”

Fraser said he is happy to see the city is building maintenance into a proposal for a Rogers Creek connector, and said it should be done automatically whenever a trail is created.

Otherwise, another Dry Creek path scenario will play out.

“We created it, we built it, we should have maintained it, and we didn’t,” Fraser said.

READ MORE: Dry Creek flood work complete



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.

Port Alberni