The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure held an open house Thursday at Port Alberni Friendship Centre to present options for improving safety at Cathedral Grove. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure held an open house Thursday at Port Alberni Friendship Centre to present options for improving safety at Cathedral Grove. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

Overpass, barrier, more parking considered for Cathedral Grove

Provincial government proceeding ‘with caution’

MIKE YOUDS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

Options for improving pedestrian safety at Cathedral Grove include a pedestrian overpass, new parking areas west of the main grove and a centre barrier to prevent illegal turns.

But a more costly, long-term option to ease the hazardous bottleneck through the park — a highway bypass widely favoured by many Alberni Valley residents — would not solve the main problem, according to the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Ministry and provincial park staff hosted an open house on Thursday, June 20 at the Port Alberni Friendship Centre, unveiling the results of public input intended to fix the chronic congestion on Highway 4 where it bisects the old-growth attraction.

Last fall’s first stage of public engagement yielded about 500 suggestions, said Peter Webber, transportation planner. Those were evaluated and narrowed to a series of options based on environmental impacts on the old growth trees, costs and three key issues — pedestrians, traffic and parking, he said.

READ: Provincial dialogue begins over Cathedral Grove traffic

“We’re not ruling out any options,” he said, including potential highway bypass routes north and south of the park. However, a bypass would not be completed within the established time frame of zero to five years and would not address the highway hazard, diverting only 10 to 20 percent of traffic.

One such route is the Horne Lake Connector linking Hwy. 19 with Hwy. 4, a well-studied secondary corridor to Port Alberni with “significant capital costs” and environmental impacts. Three other route options would skirt the main grove through the park’s southeast ridge—steep, challenging and costly terrain for a highway.

“While we’re not ruling it out, it’s not addressing the issue in the short term,” Webber said.

Options for improving parking include a highway centre barrier, to prevent the dangerous illegal turns, the addition of U-turn routes, shoulder barriers to separate parking from the travelled road and the addition of about 50 stalls.

“We are looking at additional parking capacity outside of the existing area,” but again, that would be outside of the short-term options, Webber said. “It will require a lot more assessment.”

Along with consulting the public, the ministry has studied the safety issue first hand, determining that 530 people, on average, cross the highway in a typical two-hour period during peak season.

A pedestrian underpass, initially reviewed, was assigned low feasibility due to possible flooding and impact on tree roots. An overpass, however, could take several forms with access ramps parallel to the highway of extending into the grove.

The information presented at the public events and the feedback questionnaire are available at engage.gov.bc.ca/cathedralgrove. The questionnaire is open until July 31.

Considering the success of the last attempt to enhance safety in the Grove, the ministry is probably wise to proceed with caution this time. An attempt by B.C. Parks to address the safety issue by adding parking lots in the grove was scuttled after protests 15 years ago.

“We’re working together to achieve something safe for everybody,” said Monica Valdes Garcia, supervisor of B.C. Parks’ Arrowsmith area.

The few residents who attended the afternoon open house seemed satisfied with the consultative approach.

“I’m happy to see this, but they’ve got a long way to go,” said Mary Ann Krivensky.

Her husband, Richard, pointed to the potential hazard of a tree falling on an overpass, possibly closing the highway. He strongly favors the Horne Lake Connector, “the sooner, the better.”

“We were going to have this done years ago,” he said. “People are going to get hurt.”

Webber acknowledged they are going to extraordinary lengths, but pointed out that the situation is unique—a major artery passing through the middle of a popular tourist attraction that is environmentally sensitive.

This fall, the ministry will announce its next step and further opportunities for public engagement.

Just Posted

Al Kohut, owner of the new photographers GALLERY, checks out Looking Back by David Bradt. The photo printed on canvas is among 50 images featured in the Birds on the Wild Side exhibition showing until July 3. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Photo gallery in Sidney plucks out top bird photos

Birds on the Wild Side show running at the new photographers GALLERY until July 3

A bathtub kitchen garden is part of the lineup for this year’s Teeny Tiny Garden Tour to benefit Victoria Hospice. (Screenshot/Teeny Tiny Garden Tour)
Virtual garden tour for Victoria Hospice features trio of back yards

Online tour is free; calendar purchase and donation options raise money for the cause

The Town of Sidney supports efforts to rename Reay Creek to KELSET, its traditional SENCOTEN name. (Black Press Media file photo)
Town of Sidney signs off on Reay Creek name change to KELSET

Name change does not affect surrounding parkland, but public supports doing so

Google Maps shows significant traffic backups after a crash reported shortly before noon on Father’s Day, June 20. (Google Maps)
Saanich crash closes lane of McKenzie Avenue

Police say there were injuries, traffic is impacted

Hot rods, rad rods, muscle and sports cars spanning the decades made their way in a parade from North Saanich to Victoria on June 19. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Classic cars cruise Saanich Peninsula in advance of Father’s Day

Retirement home residents from North Saanich to Victoria treated to a spectacle of hot rides

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Most Read