Tofino’s council isn’t ready to address the west end of Gibson Street just yet and will pass the issue off to Tofino’s next council.
In the west, Gibson is a residential “road” but is currently blocked by boulders which allow cyclists and pedestrians to pass but hinder emergency responders.
During last week’s regular meeting, council reviewed a letter from local Ken Gibson regarding the street’s long-standing closure.
“I have made my thoughts on this topic known for some time and have failed to get even a reply,” Gibson said in the letter.
He requested a response within 10 days and as no council meeting was scheduled within this timeframe Mayor Josie Osborne sent a response.
Her letter to Gibson was included in council’s agenda package for review.
Osborne’s letter notes the street is open to pedestrians and cyclists but added there have been “historic limitations” on the types of traffic that can travel on certain sections of Gibson Street.
“To my understanding the road has not yet been paved and opened to all traffic because of costs and concern over neighborhood impacts,” Osborne said through the
letter. “I know you understand that the district has limited resources and must consider capital priorities each year.”
Osborne expressed her own concern to council during the meeting that Gibson Street could provide an alternate route to the Tofino Community Hall, which serves as the community’s evacuation point in an emergency.
Coun. Duncan McMaster said a timeline should be put in place for work to be done.
“Just to leave it in limbo in perpetuity seems ridiculous,” he said.
Coun. Ray Thorogood agreed that the road should be opened eventually but it is not a priority. “At some point I would like to see both east and west ends of Gibson Street improved but the costs at this time are prohibitive and we have other priorities,” he said.
Coun. Al Anderson agreed with Thorogood.
“It, to me, is the very last on the list,” Anderson said. “I really wouldn’t be in favour of spending staff time on it at this point.”
Osborne suggested replacing the boulders currently in place to block traffic with a gating system that district staff and emergency responders would have a key to.
“We could continue to use it for pedestrian and bicycle traffic but vehicle traffic could get through if the need arose,” she suggested.
Coun. Garth Cameron said he would like to see “something there besides rocks” but agreed with Anderson that it is too late in the 2014 budget game for such considerations.
“At this time of year, where we’re sitting at, what’s on staff’s plate, this might be better addressed asking staff’s input next year,” he said. “Not this year, not yet.”
Thorogood said the gate idea was a “sensible” one but should not be considered until 2015’s budget.
Osborne cautioned council to take emergency access seriously “I’m going to push this a little bit. I understand the budget concerns and I understand the timing concerns but I also remember the auditor general’s recent report on the state of emergency planning in BC and I really do feel that we have a duty to take those kinds of considerations seriously and if it does cost a little bit of money to put up locking bollards or a gate, I’m ok with that myself,” she said.
“I understand it’s not going to happen quickly; this isn’t something that’s going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the road. But I do think having another one-way access through in the event of an emergency is an important thing to do.”
Council agreed to direct staff to provide a report on the cost implications of installing a gate or bollard-type system to replace the current boulders in time for 2015 budget considerations.