Chilcotin family battles with National Defence

A family is feeling pushed out of their home after an access road they used to get in and out of their property in the Chilcotin.

Susanne Peter said her family is feeling pushed out of their home after an access road they used to get in and out of their property in the Chilcotin was de-activated by the Department of National Defence (DND) on Nov. 5.

“We have lived here since 2001 and drove the road forever,” Peter said of the deactivated road. “There was absolutely no reason to close this road down. There are several private parcels in the Military Block and no one has legal access.”

National Defence public relations officer Lt. Jessica MacDonald said the Peter’s property is surrounded by the DND training area.

“The Deer Trail Road was designed and built for DND use only. It has been minimally maintained for exclusive use by the DND and was never meant to be traversed by the general public.”

This road is no longer required for DND use and will no longer be receiving the minimal maintenance it requires, she explained.

“It was deactivated because it would become a safety hazard for anyone who continued to use it.”

Peter, however,  insists the new road is not feasible or safe for her family to use.

“The new road 1200 is a safety hazard in the summer and winter,” she said. “There are always mud and rock slides and big boulders coming down onto the road, big holes, tons of trees across and snow drifts that are metres high in the winter.”

And the new road extends their travel time.

They would have to get up at 4 a.m. to drive their 10-year-old son Colton to school if he were to keep attending Chilcotin Road Elementary School in Williams Lake.

Before they were driving him to the Toosey Reserve to catch the bus. That drive took them about half an hour.

MacDonald, however, said the new access road is a well-built logging road with grades of only two-to-three per cent versus 13 to 15 per cent in sections on the deactivated portion of the Deer Trail Road.

“It is a far safer road with less environmental mass wasting issues,” she said.

The road deactivation was carried out by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, she added.

Additionally, the new federal access road, which is approximately one kilometre of dirt/gravel, connects to two roads.

It connects to the the Strauss Lake Road, which goes south to Highway 20 and is maintained as a result of logging activity but not regularly.

It also connects to the Mackin Creek Forest Service Road and the northern Mackin Creek route, and taking the northern route results in a 13 km-closer drive to Williams Lake than going the old route, MacDonald said.

Peter said they would have to get a permit to plow the road and would have to change their insurance over to commercial which would also cost “an arm and a leg.”

Insisting the original road was the better option, Peter said they drove the road all the time, did all the maintenance out of their own pockets, and now it has suddenly become a safety hazard and a liability issue.

The Peters have lived on the property since 2001 and purchased it in 2004.

They have animals, are living on Jim’s pension, and don’t believe anyone would buy the property from them because the access in and out has been limited.

“If this access hadn’t existed we would have never bought the place,” Peter said.

Colton has special needs after he suffered brain injury when he was kicked by a horse when he was four years old.

He requires regular medical appointments in Williams Lake and with the Child Development Centre for occupational therapy sessions.

“If we have to home school him he will really miss the interaction with other kids in the school,” Peter said.


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