The road is getting rockier for a gravel path project in Ucluelet that’s facing heavy opposition.
The project, which would see a gravel walkway installed along Marine Drive from Peninsula Road to Edwards Place, has been under fire recently due to concerns from the area’s residents who would rather see a paved walkway in front of their homes.
Ucluelet’s municipal council heard staunch opposition to the plan from a handful of locals during the public input portion of Nov 22’s regular meeting.
Ucluelet Mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the meeting’s attendance the plan is to put in a paved path from Victoria Road to Edwards Place and, she assured, the gravel portion slotted for the Edwards-Peninsula stretch would be paved as soon as the district could afford it.
“We recognize the value of pavement,” she said.
“We’re trying to work within the budget that we have. It’s the intention of this council to pave that pathway. It’s not the intention to put in a gravel pathway and leave it there forever.”
Marine Drive resident Kelly Simonson questioned why the district would install a gravel path rather than wait until it could afford a paved one.
“People would rather wait and see it done properly,” Simonson said. “There are a lot of half-done projects laying around and I would just like to see this one done properly the first time.”
Ucluelet local Joe Corlazzoli doubted a gravel path would hold up on Marine’s sloping terrain.
“That’s going to be quite an engineering feat to keep that gravel flat,” he said. “You’re better off not to touch it until you’re ready to pave it.”
Simonson suggested the district failed to properly advise residents of the gravel path plan and accused council of letting concerns from residents go unanswered.
“They’ve gone unaddressed, these concerns, for years and they’ve intensified in recent months and I would like to hear about why people aren’t being heard in this matter,” she said.
“We haven’t been consulted, nothing’s been discussed with us and I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think it’s fair for council to say, ‘This is going to be done because we’re going to do it’…I don’t believe that this pathway system is in our best interest, or our preference, and I don’t believe our opinions have been listened to.”
St. Jacques said a trail along the currently sidewalk-free stretch of Marine Drive has been in the works for many years and council assumed residents knew a path was a priority when a $75,000 grant from the Island Coastal Economic Trust pushed the project into the fast lane.
“That could be a mistake but, in our mind, this has been talked about for a long time. We didn’t think of it as a new project. It was something the community had identified as a need and we had an opportunity to move forward and get something accomplished with it,” St. Jacques said.
Coun. Marilyn McEwen asked if delaying the project would disrupt the ICE-T grant to which district CAO Andrew Yeates responded it would likely be fine as long as a clear plan was presented.
“We’ve found the ICE-T group to be very accommodating,” he said. “If we can give a plan on how we want that delay to occur and why we’re doing it, they’re normally fairly amenable….I can’t see it being a problem.”
Coun. Sally Mole said the paved portion from Edwards to Victoria should be followed through but the gravel portion should be delayed until further investigation could take place.
“My biggest concern is getting kids and their bikes over that hill and I think paving from Edwards down to Victoria takes care of that steep section,” she said. “I’m very hesitant on the gravel.”
Coun. Mayco Noel said the district’s communication to residents must improve and suggested signage should be put up wherever a project is being proposed to let area residents know what’s going on.
“It’s the messaging that I’m concerned about,” he said adding the gravel path might be best left avoided.
“We need to look at properly funding this so it’s paved all the way.”
Coun. Randy Oliwa agreed signage would help raise awareness of proposed developments.
“It would alleviate so many phone calls and so much wasted staff time answering the same repetitive questions,” he said.
He added council actively pursues projects and encouraged locals to participate in the district’s budget meetings to help guide their elected officials towards the right projects to pursue.
“We may not get it right the first time, but we’re definitely doing stuff,” he said.
“I’m in full support of the entire [path] project, but we will have to budget appropriately for it and that’s where the community comes in.”
After the meeting, St. Jacques told the Westerly News the gravel path project would continue as planned.
“We’re a small community with a very small budget and I know all of us on council would like to pave the whole thing from start to finish, but we’ve got to be mindful of the taxpayers’ money and the best way we can accomplish things is in phases,” she said.
“The other part will be paved as soon as we can find some funds to do so, that aren’t more urgently required somewhere else.”