The treacherous road to Bamfield is finally getting an upgrade. It’s long overdue.
The old Bamfield road was built to haul logs, not people. But, unfortunately, the gravel road has been moving people for a long time. Tragically, it’s killed too many over the years.
The Huu-ay-aht First Nations have been calling for a better road to reach their traditional territory for decades.
Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. told CHEK News, “the road is dangerous, and at least three deaths of members of our community can be attributed to dusty conditions.”
He told Ha-Shilth-Sa that he feels “dread” when he thinks about using the road to get groceries or go to doctor’s appointments.
And he’s right to worry. Another person was killed and one more injured driving the road just a few days ago, on October 24th.
In 2019, a bus crash killed two University of Victoria students. Dennis said that tragedy “opened the eyes of our government representatives.” So in September 2020, the province partnered with the Huu-ay-aht First Nations to upgrade the road.
Work is just getting underway to fix the road right now, and the Huu-ay-aht are leading the way.
It’s the first time an Indigenous group has led this kind of infrastructure project. The BC government has put up $25.7 million, and the Huu-ay-aht are contributing $5 million.
The three-year project will give the 77-kilometre road a fresh seal coat in 2022. Hopefully, they will finish the first seal job by next fall. Then in 2023, they’ll pave the most dangerous parts.
“Steep hills, bridge approaches, intersections, anywhere there’s a lot of wear and tear from the trucks will be paved,” project manager Kevin Gordon told CHEK News.
At the ground-breaking ceremony on October 18, Dennis was feeling optimistic. “Today is an exciting day for our Nation,” he said.
“We are standing today in an area where our people have lived for centuries, along the Sarita River. It is an important day because we are finally able to use the resources in the best way for our people.”
Fixing this road will safely connect folks from Huu-ay-aht First Nations with the rest of the Island. But everyone who lives in and visits Anacla and Bamfield will benefit.
“The partnership we have with the province is an example of true reconciliation,” said Huu-ay-aht Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters.
“We have lost too many lives on this essential link to our community. As a nation, we must continue to move forward together with our Ancient Spirit and Modern Minds.”