Some Marine Drive residents aren’t keen on seeing a gravel path at their doorstep.
Ucluelet has a plan in place to connect the Wild Pacific Trail’s He-Tin-Kis Park and Big Beach trailheads with a roughly two-kilometre trail that would lead hikers from He-Tin-Kis through Spring Cove to Peninsula Road by Little Beach and onto a gravel path along Marine Drive to Big Beach.
Ucluelet has budgeted $120,000 for the project, which is expected to kick off this fall, and the Island Coastal Economic Trust has kicked in $75,000 worth of support.
Marine Drive residents Erik and Linda Larsen are opposed to the gravel path plan and, in a letter reviewed by Ucluelet’s municipal council on Aug. 9, questioned how it could be so seemingly set in stone without feedback from residents.
“We are not opposed to anyone walking by our house, we are however very upset that this project has progressed as far as being construction in a couple of months,” the Larsens wrote. “Firstly you should have consulted with the residents on Marine Drive to find out if they would prefer a gravel path, a paved path or a ‘proper residential sidewalk.’”
The Larsens urged council to “put this project on the back burner” until enough funds are on hand to install a paved path or sidewalk.
“It is our opinion that you are just trying to do a cheap job, which will create a constant mess along with removing street parking,” they wrote.
“We realize that the idea of a trail on a residential street may seem funky or neat to some people but we believe that it is just haywire and out of place.”
Council received the Larsens’ letter for information without taking any specific action.
Coun. Marilyn McEwen wondered if the district had looked into paving the path when the idea for the trail-connection first came up.
District CAO Andrew Yeates said paving had been looked into but was considered too expensive at the time. He suggested the gravel path could be a first step with possible paving coming later.
Coun. Randy Oliwa said a path along Marine Drive has been in the works for years and was initially requested by an area resident who wanted safer walking experiences.
“This Marine Drive section has been on our radar for quite a number of years now and it actually came from a member of the public,” Oliwa said. “A member of a young family at the time highlighted the risks that they were having taking their [baby] stroller up overtop of that hill.”
Oliwa said a paved path would cost around $500,000 and the gravel path would be “a great first step.”
During the meeting’s public question period, Erik Larsen reiterated his concerns over council’s lack of consultation.
“Why didn’t you come to us to ask us how we felt about this recreation facility in front of our houses,” he asked.
He doubted a gravel path would be used by anyone, particularly those pushing strollers, as it would provide tougher terrain than the road’s pavement.
“I live there. I see where the people walk. If you put gravel down in front of our houses, people will walk on the pavement as sure as I’m sitting here,” he said.
“If you can’t afford to do it right then don’t do it…I really ask you to not do anything until we can afford to put a proper sidewalk in.”
He added the path would limit Marine
Drive’s street parking and any cars coming out of driveways over the path would spread gravel throughout the street.
“Tires are going to spin rocks,” he said.
Mayor Dianne St. Jacques thanked Larsen for his letter and comments and assured the district would consider his concerns.
“It has been on the books to try to put a connector trail to join up the Wild Pacific Trail so that’s the road that we were going down,” she said.
Larsen suggested that current road does not make sense.
“I don’t know anywhere that I can think of where you have a trail on a residential street,” he said.
After the meeting, St. Jacques told the Westerly News the gravel path would go ahead as planned but paving it would be a priority in future budget discussions.