Drivers urged to slow down on Bamfield road after crash amid dusty conditions

Drivers using the logging road to Bamfield, on the west coast of the Island, are being urged to use extra caution after another serious accident on the 85-kilometre stretch of unpaved road known for its steep terrain and blind corners.

The Huu-ay-aht First Nation said Friday a recent collision involving a logging truck and an SUV, driven by a forestry worker familiar with Bamfield Main, prompted a warning for dusty and dangerous conditions.

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 Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. said the accident involved a registered professional forester and consultant for the Huu-ay-aht’s forestry company.

“[He] is an experienced driver and has travelled the Bamfield road most of his career, and yet last week he hit a logging truck that was invisible to him on the dusty roads. Luckily, he was fine, but he totalled his vehicle,” Dennis said in a statement. 

“Since the Bamfield road opened in the 1970s, Huu-ay-aht has lost eight citizens on this road and witnessed countless accidents, many related to dust obscuring visibility.”

Western Forest Products also issued an advisory about dusty conditions and low visibility. It cautioned drivers not to pass vehicles unless signalled to do so. The company said it will start dust-control measures this month.

Last September, a bus carrying 45 University of Victoria students, en route to a marine sciences centre in Bamfield, slid off the road in an accident that claimed two lives.

The Huu-ay-aht continues to push the provincial government to upgrade the road, calling for chip-sealing to reduce dust and other safety improvements. In April 2019, Premier John Horgan travelled the road to meet Huu-ay-aht officials and committed to safety upgrades. 

In a statement, the Huu-ay-aht said during a meeting last week, MLA and Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser promised to continue to push for the necessary approvals for the Bamfield Road improvement project. 

RCMP Const. Peter Batt urged drivers to reduce speeds, especially when conditions are dusty. “You need time to stop at the last second with all this dust on the road,” he said. “If you are doing the trip in less than 90 minutes, you are driving too fast.” He reminded drivers to make sure their headlights and taillights are turned on.

The Huu-ay-aht nation has committed $5 million to the road improvement project and needs an additional $25.7 million to complete it. 

In addition to making the road safer for residents, workers and visitors, improving the road is considered an important step for the region and can be part of the economic recovery strategy for the Alberni Valley. 

Those supporting the improvement initiative include Port Alberni, the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, other area First Nations communities, the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, United Steelworkers, Western Forest Products, Mosaic Forest Management, University of Victoria, Indigenous Tourism B.C., Tourism Industry Association of B.C., the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and other provincial First Nations organizations.

“Everyone supports and understands the need for this work to be done,” Dennis said.

“We are hopeful that the province will approve this project soon so that we can improve safety and save lives.”

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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