A tow-truck crew removes a bus from an embankment next to a logging road near Bamfield, B.C., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

A tow-truck crew removes a bus from an embankment next to a logging road near Bamfield, B.C., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Bamfield residents, visitors pressure province as anniversary of fatal crash approaches

Letter-writing campaign makes ‘heartfelt, emotional pleas’ to improve road conditions

With the one-year anniversary of a fatal bus crash approaching, Bamfield residents and visitors alike are calling on the provincial government to make a final decision on improvements to the Bamfield Road.

On the night of Sept. 13, 2019, a Wilson’s Transportation bus carrying more than 40 University of Victoria students rolled over an embankment on its way to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. Two UVic students were killed in the accident.

READ MORE: Bamfield Road safety concerns resurface after fatal bus crash

READ MORE: Several factors led to deadly bus crash on Bamfield Road: RCMP report

Now, almost one year later, a proposal to upgrade the road is sitting before the Provincial Treasury, and a letter-writing campaign is emphasizing the urgency of improving the 85-kilometre gravel road.

The call to action was put together by the Bamfield Community Affairs Society, as well as the Huu-ay-aht First Nations. It asks for people to craft letters about their experiences on the Bamfield Road and send them to Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser (scott.fraser.mla@leg.bc.ca).

Huu-ay-aht First Nations Chief Robert Dennis Jr. (robert.d@huuayaht.org) and Bamfield regional director Bob Beckett (bbeckett@acrd.bc.ca) are also being copied on the emails.

“The idea is for people to write from the heart,” explained Beckett. “Their experiences, their expectations. The idea is Minister Fraser will move this information and let the treasury board know what the impact has been, on residents and visitors.”

As of Thursday afternoon (Aug. 13), Huu-ay-aht First Nations Chief Robert Dennis Jr. said he had been copied on almost 50 emails.

“I’ve personally responded to each one,” said Dennis. “The majority of them have been from Bamfield residents, which shows that they are seeing this as a very important matter.”

Beckett, who is also being copied on the emails, said that he has also received quite a few from the students who were on the bus that fateful night, as well as their families. As a retired fire chief, with more than 40 years of emergency response experience, Beckett says he has been “emotionally moved” by some of the letters.

“The most profound letters have been from the students that were on the bus that night,” he said. “These are not just short emails, these are heartfelt, emotional pleas. There’s anger, disappointment, frustration. They recognize that the accident has changed their life. It really has traumatized many people.”

“It’s an adventure every time we take this road,” he added. “It shouldn’t have to be an adventure. It’s unacceptable in this day and age, after the Roger Harris report [of 2008], that nothing has been done.”

READ MORE: Bamfield, Anacla deserve safe access road, ombudsperson says

September 13 will mark the one-year anniversary of the fatal crash, and both Beckett and Dennis are hopeful that a decision will be made before then. According to Beckett, Cabinet has approved the project in principle, and the Treasury board could be making a decision soon.

“Minister Fraser has worked very hard on this file,” said Beckett. “I have full confidence that Treasury is going to approve the project.”

“We’re coming up to one year [since the crash],” added Dennis. “Quite a bit of time has elapsed. We’re doing our part to get the province to respond to this very urgent issue. We’re hopeful that the Treasury board will see the importance of this.”

Huu-ay-aht First Nations has been advocating for improvements to the road for decades. In 2018, Huu-ay-aht hired Urban Systems Engineering to develop a proposal to upgrade the road. Upgrades would include chip sealing, drainage improvements, railings at bridges and flooding controls. The estimated cost of the project over three years is $30.7 million, and Huu-ay-aht has already committed to contributing $5 million.

The maintenance budget for the improved road would be $1.1 million annually, to be shared by the same partners who now pay for road maintenance: the province, Western Forest Products and Mosaic Forest Management.

READ MORE: Huu-ay-aht First Nations urge caution driving Bamfield Road after serious crash

Beckett says that the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District is “100 percent in support” of the Huu-ay-aht project.

“Our ultimate goal is that we support the initiative started by the Huu-ay-aht First Nations,” said Beckett. “If for whatever reason the project isn’t approved, we still want a proper standard to be established, with proper maintenance on the road.”

For Dennis, chip sealing the road is about more than just safety—it’s also about economic opportunity for the Huu-ay-aht First Nations and their traditional village centre, Anacla, located near Bamfield.

READ MORE: Road to recovery remains unpaved for Huu-ay-aht First Nations

“It’s certainly going to help the economy of the region,” said Dennis. “My hope is that we can diversify the economy and provide tourism opportunities for visitors.”



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

BamfieldUVic

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Millstone River in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Regional district looks at value of Nanaimo’s natural assets

Report focused on the Millstone River could inform future decisions on corporate asset management

Protesters gather along the Pearson Bridge on Terminal Avenue in downtown Nanaimo last month as part of an event called Worth More Standing. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: B.C. hasn’t managed forests properly

Protesters opposing logging in Fairy Creek speak for many British Columbians, say letter writers

Nanaimo singer Victoria Vaughn recently released an EP with local producer Austin Penner. (Photo courtesy Taylor Murray)
Nanaimo singer and recent VIU grad releases EP about becoming an adult

Victoria Vaughn’s ‘Growing Pains’ recorded with local producer Austin Penner

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Air Canada, Harbour Air flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

Rebates through Clean B.C.’s Better Homes New Construction program are available, says the City of Nanaimo. (Vancouver Island University photo)
Energy-efficient home builds in Nanaimo eligible for up to $15K in rebates

All building permits issued on, or after, April 1, 2020 eligible, says City of Nanaimo

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Noel Brown, Snuneymuxw First Nation carver, observes the house post he carved, which now is situated in front of the Kw’umut Lelum centre on Centre Street in Nanaimo. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
House post representative of work of Kw’umut Lelum in Nanaimo

Snuneymuxw First Nation artist Noel Brown’s carved red cedar house post unveiled Friday, April 16

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read