Ucluelet is installing a new walkway along Marine Drive but are residents are concerned about a pavement-ready gravel portion that they feel hasn't been planned properly.

Ucluelet is installing a new walkway along Marine Drive but are residents are concerned about a pavement-ready gravel portion that they feel hasn't been planned properly.

No stalling for Marine Drive walkway in Ucluelet,

“Clearly, if we had a bottomless pit of money, we’d be paving it immediately, but we’ll get there."

Ucluelet is holding fast to a gravel path plan that area residents have been throwing rocks at since it was announced last year.

The plan calls for a roughly $120,000 walkway that would connect the Wild Pacific Trail from He-Tin-Kis Park to Big Beach. The path includes a gravel portion along Marine Drive from Peninsula Road to Edwards Place, which has drawn concern from Marine Drive residents who have called for the project to be delayed until the district can afford to put a paved walkway in.

Speaking to the Westerly News last week, St. Jacques said the project is moving ahead as planned and added the gravel portion will be paved as soon as the district has the funds to do so.

“Clearly, if we had a bottomless pit of money, we’d be paving it immediately, but we’ll get there. It’s a priority. We’re motivated,” she said.

She said the steep-hill stretch of Marine Drive is currently hazardous for pedestrians and cyclists and it wouldn’t be prudent to stall the project.

“It’s a blind hill. It needs to be done for safety and I don’t think we should be putting off safety issues,” she said. “We’re a tiny community with a tiny budget. To wait until we have all the money could sometimes be a very, very long wait.”

She added putting a pavement-ready gravel path in would allow the district to act quickly when potential grants pop up that could fund a paving project.

“We can’t always do it immediately, but if we have that casework done, that gravel path in place, and a grant comes available that we can get to do some paving, we are ready to go. We are what they call ‘shovel ready,’” she said. “For us, with our challenges, it’s just the best way we can go about getting things accomplished.”

Erik Larsen, who served on Ucluelet’s council from 1979 to 2005, lives on Marine Drive and has voiced strong opposition to the project.

He told the Westerly he was surprised to hear the district’s plan to move ahead with it and said council’s conversation during a Nov. 22 meeting suggested they were willing to rethink their strategy.

“I sort of got the impression that, before they proceeded, they were going to look for some further funding and I’m not sure where that’s ended up,” he said.

Speaking to his own time on council though, Larsen acknowledged some decisions are unpopular.

“I have sat on the other side of the table and listened to people speak their hearts out on various things and voted opposed to what they wanted,” he said.“So, I can hardly call these people down for doing what they’re doing, because they supposedly have a wider view of what is taking place in our community…These people are elected to look at the overall picture and come up with the right decisions. That doesn’t mean that I agree with it.”

He added he plans to keep a keen eye on council moving forward.

“I will be paying more attention,” he said. “I haven’t actually attended many council meetings in the last many years, but I’m more interested in it again and I’ll be keeping a close eye on it.”

Marine Drive resident Kelly Simonson told the Westerly she was “dismayed” to hear the path is going ahead despite the concerns of her neighbourhood.

“I was under the impression that there was going to be some feedback and accountability from council. I’m shocked to hear that they have zero of that,” she said.

Simonson voiced her opposition to the project during Nov. 22’s meeting and also brought a petition signed by other Marine Drive residents opposed to the gravel path moving forward.

She echoed Larsen’s account that residents left that meeting feeling optimistic that council would reverse course.

“There was discussion amongst us afterwards and we we’re buoyed. We thought maybe we’d been listened to and maybe we were heard,” she said. “For it to fizz out like this is incredibly disheartening.”

She said she has not heard from the district since that meeting.

“We’ve never been polled. We’ve never been talked to. We’ve never been asked,” she said. “There’s so much negligence there.