I’ve been to Hole in the Wall twice in the 14 years that I’ve lived in the Alberni Valley. It’s beautiful, and the history of the area is pretty cool: the hole is manmade, created for a pipeline to supply water to Port Alberni.
Although the pipeline is long gone from the hole, there are still ribbed remnants of the old wooden pipe visible at ground level in the area. The trail to the creek is about one kilometre, and although steep in one area it’s fairly accessible.
The place has a lot going for it. Safety isn’t one of those things; and that’s the whole reason I rarely bring visitors there, or don’t go too often.
On hot summer days, the lineup of cars parked on the side of Highway 4 closest to the trail access is often longer than the pullout. I’ve seen people run across the highway from Coombs Country Candy, at a point in the highway where westbound traffic comes around a downhill corner.
Clearly, something needs to be done. The sticking point is who owns the land between the highway and Hole in the Wall—it’s not the city or Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.
A few years ago, when John Douglas was mayor of Port Alberni, he brought up the safety factor of Hole in the Wall, and wanted to start discussions with the landowner, which is now Mosaic Forest Management. Nothing really happened, there was a change in leadership and the issue went away quietly—although the traffic hasn’t.
The discussion has come up again, this time at the regional district level. The area has been busy this summer since many people are getting outdoors in their own backyards instead of travelling. If it keeps up, it will only be a matter of time before a serious incident happens on the highway.
If there is political will, I’m sure municipal governments in this area will be able to have productive discussions with Mosaic about access, where a suitable parking area could be built or alternatives. I’m told Hole in the Wall can also be accessed from Roger’s Creek Trail—I’ve never approached it from that angle—so there could be opportunity to develop and mark the trail from that direction.
It is clear that residents and tourists appreciate this particular piece of nature; so let’s talk about it more formally. What we don’t want to see is something happen that will force Mosaic to bar access completely.
— Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor