The improvements to a challenging and dangerous stretch of road that links Port Alberni and Bamfield on the west coast of Vancouver Island have been finished.
The Huu-ay-aht First Nations hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday to mark the successful completion of the Bamfield Main Road Reconciliation Project.
In October 2020, the project initiated by the First Nation and the province commenced construction.
Huu-ay-aht First Nations Chief Councillor John Jack expressed the aim of ensuring a safer and more dependable pathway for all individuals who journey through Huu-ay-aht territory.
“He added that this upgrade marks the initiation of the development of a resilient community and economy for both Huu-ay-aht citizens and individuals residing in the region.”
The improvements consist of a road surface with increased resistance to skidding, the installation of steel guardrails, enhanced drainage systems through new and improved culverts, and additional safety enhancements.
The Bamfield Main is the main transportation link between Port Alberni and the communities of Bamfield and Anacla for medical, emergency and community access for Huu-ay-aht First Nations members, Bamfield residents, forest companies and tourists. It is also the key route to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.
Over the years, numerous accidents have occurred on the 76-kilometre road, with one tragic incident in September 2019 resulting in the loss of two University of Victoria students’ lives. This occurred when their bus veered off the road during a rainstorm.
Kevin Hall, the president and vice chancellor of the University of Victoria, expressed that the project’s accomplishment holds significant importance for both the Huu-ay-aht community and the university.
“He expressed that although it is difficult to find any positive aspect in a tragedy, witnessing the current state of this road is truly remarkable, considering we had lost two students on it.”
Promise of new economic opportunities
According to Stephen Rayner, the executive councillor of Huu-ay-aht First Nations, the upgraded road will be beneficial for the development of tourism and other business prospects.
“He stated that it provides us with a wide range of possibilities, spanning from various industries to tourism, enabling us to make progress that was previously unattainable.”
In a statement, Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, echoed Rayner’s sentiments about the infrastructure’s long-term significance for community residents, local businesses, and the forestry and tourism sectors.
Rankin said that it would provide long-term support for economic growth and recovery.
The project received a combined funding of $35.7 million from the province and $5 million from the First Nation.