Huu-ay-aht First Nations Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr., left, joins Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation on the steps of the B.C. Legislature for an announcement about the safety of Bamfield Road, Sept. 11, 2020. (BC GOVERNMENT PHOTO)

Huu-ay-aht First Nations Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr., left, joins Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation on the steps of the B.C. Legislature for an announcement about the safety of Bamfield Road, Sept. 11, 2020. (BC GOVERNMENT PHOTO)

EDITORIAL: It’s time to move on Bamfield Road project

Residents are tired of their pleas being ignored, like they have been for the past two decades

A year ago, two students from the University of Victoria died in a crash when the bus they were on rolled off the side of Bamfield Road. The tragedy signalled the end of the collective patience of people who live in both Bamfield and Anacla at the end of the road.

Residents from both communities launched a steady campaign in front of anyone who would listen that the road must be made safe. They were tired of their pleas being ignored, like they have been for the past two decades.

Forest Safety Council ombudsman Roger Harris wrote in a report about the accident that people should have an expectation that a road that provides the basic services to communities meets a certain safety standard. That standard should at minimum mean the road can be used safely 24 hours per day, not just in daylight, as some have suggested about Bamfield Road.

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The committee struck to find a solution to the road decided chipsealing was the most economical choice, The price tag for 76 kilometres isn’t cheap: $30 million for the whole project, the lion’s share of which will be paid for by the provincial government. The Huu-ay-aht First Nations will contribute $5 million and oversee the project along with a consultant.

As soon as it was made public that the road would be chipsealed and not paved, armchair critics came out in droves. The point they missed, however, is that the committee wasn’t asking for the sky: stakeholders knew paving the road completely would be cost prohibitive.

A less expensive solution was chosen, and its safety merits carefully considered prior to the announcement. We have to trust that the experts consulted know what they’re doing. The committee did.

The Huu-ay-aht have been asking for years to take over maintenance of the road from Western Forest Products, which has received a small budget to keep the gravel road graded. The Huu-ay-aht have finally gotten their wish.

It is our fervent hope that the funding announcement made about Bamfield Road was not simply a pre-election trick. There have been a spate of announcements coming out of Victoria for the past three weeks, and the frequency has only increased.

Work on the Bamfield Road improvement plan needs to begin soon—as a show of good faith to the people whose lives depend on it.

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Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictBamfieldFirst NationsPORT ALBERNI