George Gilmore has lived on a forestry access road in the Cariboo since 1992.
The road has not been used for forestry in five years and has not been graded since, he says.
“It’s an eight-kilometre stretch with businesses on it. There are 19 people at this end of the lake that utilize it when it’s in good shape. Right now it’s a hazard.”
In 2011, Gilmore gathered 150 signatures on a petition he gave to MLAs Bob Simpson and Donna Barnett, hoping to have some work done on the road.
“There were people on the petition from Alberta, Chilliwack, Washington, Vancouver; they all come up here and they access all this beautiful area,” he explains.
With the long weekend coming up and people flocking to the area, Gilmore is concerned because the road is in such bad shape.
Jeanette Turpin is in her fifth year of owning and operating the Crooked Lake Resort, located at the end of the same forest access road.
The resort has seen its RV traffic decline by 50 per cent in recent years, Turpin says.
“I have thought about how much of this impact is due to the economic times but then when I check back to our RV site rentals in 2009 — at the height of the economic turmoil — that is where it shows us being 50 per cent busier.”
Last year the resort had mineral explorers staying there. Turpin had to loan them some timbers and chains so they could get past some of the washed out roads and into their work areas.
“I can bore you with several more horror stories about flat tires, a broken axle, an aluminum boat that bounced so bad on his trailer that it wore a hole on the side of his boat etc, etc. but I am sure you get the point.”
Turpin pays $4,000 in property taxes, which she says she isn’t against paying.
However, her property is off the grid. She pays extra for the use of water that’s coming down off the mountain and does not receive fire protection or road maintenance.
She’d be willing to pool tax money with other residents to maintain the road if she could get a rebate on her taxes, but that’s not possible, she says.
“I understand that we are in poor economic times, of constraint, and I have asked MLA Donna Barnett, the front line forestry staff, and their senior management about looking at the issue to see if we can brainstorm some solutions.”
Cariboo Chilcotin Forest District manager Mike Pedersen says he has empathy for their frustrations; however, he says he has a very limited budget for maintenance of forest service roads.
“My main focus is on the recreational sites and that we’ve got an agreement that we provide maintenance to those roads so people can access those recreational sites,” Pedersen says.
“We get a priority listing from recreation. They provide some money and then our engineering branch chips in some money. It’s a shared approach to maintaining access into prime recreation sites.”
Not all the recreation sites are dealt that way, but the prime ones are, he explains.
Other resorts in the region have taken road maintenance on themselves and have a road-use agreement with the ministry.
“They hire somebody to come in that has the insurance to grade the road for them so that there’s access for their customers.”
It would cost about $1,000 to pay a contractor to grade the eight-kilometre stretch; however, Gilmore and Turpin are reluctant to pay for the maintenance.
“The government can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a bicycle trail on the seawall in Vancouver, they can put millions and millions to the Pemberton Highway and up to the ski hill, but they can’t spend a thousand dollars on a little chunk of road?” Gilmore asks.
He and his neighbours could grade the road themselves, he suggests. However, they would be liable and possibly ticketed if they did.
“I’m 63 years old. I’m not going to move. I love this place out here. I just want a little bit of something for the money I pay in taxes and everyone else out here does too. We’re not asking them to grade the road every year; even every other year would be OK,” Gilmore says.
Turpin says she wants the list of priority recreation roads reviewed. If roads are being plowed and graded because they are the ones that have always been, then that’s not good enough, she says.
“As an example, the road into Hen-Ingram Lake was graded this year. There is no one living out there, nor are there any businesses. How is that a priority road? I think the limited funds they do have for maintaining the road could be better spent if they were to review their priorities and spending.”