Huu-ay-aht and Province agree to upgrade Bamfield Road

Premier John Horgan and representative from Huu-ay-aht, the City of Port Alberni, and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District stop in November 2019 to recognize the loss of life of two UVic students on the Bamfield Road.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations is pleased to announce a project with the Province of B.C. that will bring significant safety upgrades to Bamfield Road.

The announcement made today in Victoria is welcome news to the Nation as it has been working diligently for decades to upgrade Bamfield Road. This is the Nation’s top priority as Bamfield Road provides a vital link for citizens living in the Huu-ay-aht village of Anacla, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Without upgrades, the 76-kilometre logging road is a safety concern to all who travel it. This is a very positive end to the first part of this journey, and the Nation looks forward to working with the Province over the next three years to complete the next phase of their vision.

Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. would like to acknowledge the commitment made by Premier John Horgan and Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser. They took time out of their busy schedules to prioritize the Nation’s concerns, even travelling the road in November 2019 to see first-hand the challenges the road poses for travellers.

“By working in a respectful way with Huu-ay-aht to make upgrades to Bamfield Road a reality, we see that the Province is ready to work on true reconciliation with First Nations and is honouring the importance of the safety of our community,” said Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “The upgrades they announced today will make Bamfield and Anacla safer places to live, and it will open up economic opportunities for our communities to prosper together in the future.”

The bus crash in 2019 that claimed the lives of two young University of Victoria students highlighted the need for these upgrades, but their families are not the only ones to lose loved ones along this dangerous stretch of logging road. Through the years, Huu-ay-aht has lost a number of citizens in accidents on Bamfield Road. This project is a legacy to all of the lives lost.

“The Province is honouring our elders and the Nation’s sacred principles of ʔiisaak (Utmost Respect), ʔuuʔałuk (Taking Care of….), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (Everything is One) with today’s announcement,” explained Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Hereditary Chief Derek Peters). “Our Nation was forever changed when Tayii Ḥaw̓ił Art Peters, my grandfather, was killed on Bamfield Road. It is tragic that it took the loss of so many to highlight the need for chipsealing the road, but we honour the ones we have lost by doing everything we can to prevent the loss of life along this vital link in the future.”

The project is expected to cost approximately $30.7 million. Huu-ay-aht will contribute $5 million, and the Province will contribute $25.7 million from its COVID-19 Re-start and Recovery program. The Nation will manage the project with technical support from Urban Systems, as well as contributing gravel from its pit on treaty lands.

The project is expected to start soon, beginning with geotechnical and design work, and will likely take approximately three years to complete. The Province and Huu-ay-aht will ensure measures are in place during the COVID-19 pandemic to complete this major construction project in a way that protects the safety and health of the people in Bamfield and Anacla.

Upon completion, the road will have a seal-coat surface that will offer a safer, smoother drive for travellers. The upgrades will decrease many of the risks travellers currently face on the logging road such as dust, uneven surfaces, loose gravel, flooding and washouts, and dangerous corners and road edges.

Although the main reason for upgrades is to improve safety on the road, construction is expected to also offer a significant economic boost to the area.

Bamfield was at one time a booming fishing village, but in the past two decades that has changed and the community has struggled economically. The construction of the road will bring its own economic opportunities to Bamfield and the surrounding communities, and when the road is complete it will improve the economic outlook for the whole community.

Roads are a crucial contributor to economic success for a community. With a reliable link to its neighbouring communities, the Bamfield region could see many opportunities come its way. In 2016, Huu-ay-aht First Nations invested in Bamfield through the purchase of 11 properties, including a number of turnkey operations. That investment has already proven to be beneficial to the business community in Bamfield, and the Nation believes it is only the beginning. When a community flourishes economically, it has a significant impact on social development and community health. With this announcement that the Bamfield Road will be chipsealed, the Nation believes the whole community will benefit on many levels.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations would like to acknowledge that the success of this project was built on the framework of working together. Today’s announcement is possible because all the parties worked together to solve this challenge, including the Province, the City of Port Alberni, the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, Western Forest Products, Mosaic Forest Management, Urban Systems, University of Victoria, the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, and the many residents and business owners who showed their support for the project.

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