Approximately 530 pedestrians cross Highway 4 at Cathedral Grove every two hours during summer days, walking in front of the thousands of vehicles travelling through the grove daily, according to B.C. government stats.
That fact was among the information on display at a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure open house in Parksville on Thursday, Nov. 22, to discuss solutions for the area. An open house was also held the day before in Port Alberni.
Approximately 50 people attended the Port Alberni meeting, while approximately 20 visited the Parksville one (MOTI staff were expecting more, they said).
Nonetheless, the input of those who have attended has provided some validation, said MOTI’s deputy regional director for the South Coast Region, Janelle Staite at the start of the Parksville open house.
“People definitely agree that there is a safety concern,” she said. “Folks who are travelling on the corridor said, ‘Yup, I’ve experienced that myself first hand,’ so I think it was validation that, yes, there is a concern out there, and yes, there is a need to do something.”
However, some have been sounding the alarm for years already.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” said Gillian Mead-Robins in a 2016 Alberni Valley News story. Her family has owned a cabin at Cameron Lake since the 1920s.
“It’s too crowded on the side of the road, kids jump out of the car, people back up into the oncoming highway to take pictures of trees… it’s deathly dangerous,” she said.
The two open houses kick off the ministry’s pedestrian and traffic safetystudy for Cathedral Grove, with staff emphasizing that they have no preferred ideas yet, and are currently looking for public input on concerns and solutions.
The public can get info and continue to provide feedback online via engage.gov.bc.ca/cathedralgrove, by calling 250-751-3126, or by e-mailing email@example.com. Feedback will be taken until Jan. 4 of next year.
Based on feedback from the Port Alberni meeting, Staite noted ideas such as “the idea of pedestrian separation be it a tunnel, be it a pedestrian overpass; making sure it was accessible because there is such a range of folks that visit the park.
“The idea of more parking was generated in terms of different ideas be it parking lots, be it parking areas where you shuttle people in, or there is a new trail network where you walk to the park, wider shoulders to again be able to get people off the highway,” said Staite.
One suggestion made at the Parksville meeting was the use of a logging road not far to the west of the grove, which could be used for parking. Then, people could either be shuttled into the grove, or a trail network could be connected from there.
“It gives the opportunity to, again, cycle back to the public and say, with this option, here is the impact that comes with it, and here are the benefits that come with it,” she said.