By Melissa Renwick, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter HA-SHILTH-SA
Work continues on the Bamfield Main Surfacing Project as the Huu-ay-aht community looks forward to safer travel conditions when the road is paved later next year.
The road has been undergoing construction since 2020 with the goal of making the road to the remote communities of Bamfield and Anacla safer.
One of the foreseeable changes linked to the Bamfield Main Surfacing Project’s completion is a change in the local economy, said Robert Dennis, chief councillor of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations.
“It’s going to enable Huu-ay-aht First Nation to diversify its economy where we wouldn’t have to be primarily dependent on the resource economy,” said Dennis. “We can now diversify into tourism, and that’s what we’ve been slowly transitioning into.”
“Getting people to turn left instead of right in Port Alberni is huge,” said John Jack, deputy chief councillor. “We know that there’s quite a bit of people who kind of overflow into Tofino, and therefore they don’t have accommodations. We can provide for them as good an experience as time goes by.”
Jack said that opening the land to tourism results in an opportunity to create a healthy local economy with more entrepreneurial opportunities and jobs.
“People will be able to make a living for themselves,” said Jack. “That’s over and above the types of things that we’re doing in forestry, or fisheries as well.”
“We see the road improvement project is something that helps balance our economy in a way that makes other things more affordable or more possible, especially when it comes to tourism hospitality,” continued Jack.
Jack said that sightlines and corridor presentation is something they will look into in the future in their approach to logging cutblocks.
“We want the corridor potentially to be a pleasant driving experience into our territory,” said Jack. “Our practices are pretty good as they stand, and are likely to get better.”
The unpaved logging road from Port Alberni to Anacla and Bamfield has been dusty in the summer, with growing potholes during wet months. Dennis said a huge safety concern has been dust behind logging trucks, reducing visibility.
Jack said the road will open up more access for reliable transportation, allowing ambulances to serve the community better as well as result in better access to health care service.
“This means that we’ll probably have more people who are elders, or may need more rapid access to care, being willing to come and stay in our community overnight or live here,” said Jack. “That’s huge, because that will bring for us a lot more resources, and people willing to be in the community.”
Dennis said that three years ago roughly 85 people lived at home in the Anacla community. Presently they have approximately 170 people living at home.
“This is something where it presents a lot of opportunities, but also a lot of changes,” said Jack. “And helping people manage that change and move through it in a good way is something that we really need to talk about.”