The bus involved in a crash on Bamfield Road on Friday, Sept. 13 is towed away from the scene. PHOTO COURTESY CTV NEWS VANCOUVER ISLAND

The bus involved in a crash on Bamfield Road on Friday, Sept. 13 is towed away from the scene. PHOTO COURTESY CTV NEWS VANCOUVER ISLAND

Forestry watchdog warned B.C. government about Bamfield Road in 2008

Ombusman’s specific concerns re-surface in wake of bus crash that killed two students

The author of a 2008 report on the safety of B.C.’s logging roads is accusing the province of ignoring his findings, in the wake of the fatal bus crash near Bamfield.

Ombudsperson Roger Harris’s report on “resource roads,” or logging roads, contained 17 recommendations to improve maintenance and safety, following 16 related deaths in three years.

Many of them have been adopted, but not what Harris calls his “cornerstone” recommendation – the creation of a new designation for logging roads that serve as a community’s primary or secondary access roads.

This designation would have “clearly defined standards” for maintenance, construction and enforcement. Roads would be funded similarly to the public highway system.

In his report, he specifically brought up Bamfield Road, concerned by the fact that thousands of students and researchers were using it each year to get to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. It’s also regularly used by Bamfield residents, tourists and members of Huu-ay-aht First Nations.

Last Friday, a bus carrying 48 people, most of them students from the University of Victoria, was on its way to the marine sciences facility when it crashed down an embankment on Bamfield Road. Two students were killed.

READ MORE: Two killed after bus crashes taking university students to Bamfield

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

And the report crossed Harris’ desk again.

“Regretfully, for all the wrong reasons,” he said on Thursday, Sept. 19.

In a recent statement, the Ministry of Transportation said the issue is complex because the province doesn’t own the road. Private companies own and main it for forestry operations.

But Harris argued it hasn’t been primarily used as a logging road for many years.

“These roads were originally built for a single purpose: To move logs,” he said. “But as these [logging] camps become communities, those roads become multi-purpose. The Bamfield Road is one of the best examples. A logging camp, it’s not. But it’s still under the same road system as a logging camp.”

Bamfield is not the only B.C. community served by resource roads. The villages of Tahsis and Zeballos on Vancouver Island are only accessible by mostly gravel logging roads, as well as numerous First Nations communities in the Interior.

Harris’ 2008 report said resource roads have become an extension of the public highway system.

“People living in these communities should have the same equitable treatment that you and I have,” he added on Thursday. “If you live in Bamfield, you have no idea what the condition of the road is going to be when you leave your house in the morning.”

The road doesn’t necessarily need to be paved, Harris said. But ownership should be transferred to the government, with clear requirements for maintenance.

A petition started by one the crash survivors asks for road conditions to be improved between Port Alberni and Bamfield. As of Thursday morning, it had more than 7,000 signatures.

READ MORE: Bus crash survivor petitions Justin Trudeau to fix road from Port Alberni to Bamfield

But Harris fears that while public pressure might lead to improvements, nothing will change for the many other communities that use private resource roads as their primary access.

“We see things like medical facilities, hospitals, schools … Those are essential public services that governments provide,” he said. “A road that gets you to and from your home is equally an essential service.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan mentioned the 2008 report on Thursday, acknowledging that the Bamfield road is an “age-old problem.” He also noted that the road is privately owned and under the purview of Western Forest Products.

“It is used by the public and we’re going to have to find a way forward,” he said. “It’s terrible that a tragedy where two lives were lost had to focus our attention on it, but I know that we’re going to be working…to try to find a way.

“Kids travel to Port Alberni on that road every day to go to school,” he added. “If that’s not enough to see action, I don’t know what is.”



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

Langley Animal Protection Society is asking people to think about the animals in need this holiday season, offering a number of ways to help. (Drew Harkness/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Santa Paw efforts afoot in Langley this Christmas

Aldergrove animal shelter develops new ways for people to help pets this holiday season

Local people are signing onto an online campaign to have people stand out of doors at 6 p.m. local time on Christmas Eve and ring bells for two minutes. (Facebook post)
LETTER: Langley, ring those Christmas bells

Global campaign asks people to ring bells for two minutes outside at 6 p.m. Christmas Eve local time

Rents range from $1,000 for a studio apartment up to almost $2,000 for a family townhouse at Emmaus Place, built as affordable housing. (Langley Advance Times files)
Rents out of reach at Langley affordable housing project, say would-be tenants

Rents for a studio apartment start at $1,000 a month

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

Vees goalkeeper Yaniv Perets stands watch while Tyler Ho takes the puck around the back of the net on Nov. 7. The BCHL press release did not name the player who tested positive.(Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Vees quarantining after player tests positive for COVID-19

The team, staff and billets are isolating while they are tested

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Most Read