Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jenson went missing in Sooke on Friday night. (Black Press Media)

Province increases security at Sooke park after three men swept away by river

Three men killed when accessing the park due to heavy rains, flooding

In an abrupt change of course, the B.C. Environment Ministry agreed to take action to close the first parking lot gate at Sooke Potholes Provincial Park.

The move comes after questions were raised by Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks and other members of the community after it was discovered that the gate on Sooke River Road that would have restricted access to the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park had not been closed.

This flew in the face of the stated policy of the ministry is to restrict overnight access to parks.

RELATED: Questions arise about gate

“I guess that the media coverage drew their attention to the issue and I got a call from the premier about it today at 9:30 a.m.,” Hicks said.

“I asked for a call from the deputy minister and we exchanged information about the situation, looking for a solution.”

A week ago, Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and Anthony (A.J.) Jensen, all 20, died when, on Jan. 31 sometime after 11 p.m., their pickup truck was engulfed in water during unprecedented flooding near the lower parking lot of the Sooke Potholes.

They were only able to access that point by virtue of the gate having been left ajar, a situation that had apparently been true for several years as attested to by the growth of bushes over the gate in question.

RELATED: Story slow to emerge

“I was in contact with the Ministry and gave them information on the contractor that closes the CRD gate, on the same road on the other side of the park, and they have now hired our contractor, Shadow West Security, to man their gate as well,” said Hicks.

In a strange twist to the story, however, the ministry had also discovered that the gate was not located inside the park boundary, but rather was located on municipal land.

“Nobody knew that. It was always assumed that the gate was inside the park and I think even the ministry was surprised that it was not,” said Sooke Mayor Maja Tait.

When contacted by the ministry, Tait was quick to sign a letter granting the jurisdiction of the gate to the Ministry of Environment.

“We’re just really grateful to Mike Hicks for doing all the heavy lifting on this issue. He’s really the one that made this happen,” Tait said.

Prior to today, the Ministry of Environment had responded to questions about whether they would be reviewing their policies on ensuring that the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park was closed, particularly during hazardous conditions, by stating that they were waiting on the outcome of the B.C. Coroners report.

In a written statement they said:

“The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating and we await their report. Should any recommendations call on the provincial government to make changes in policy and approach, we will do everything possible to prevent this from ever happening again.”

That response resulted in an outcry from the community, with many people commenting on social media that immediate action was required.

“I’m very happy that we’ve been able to make this happen,” Hicks said.

“It goes to show you what we can accomplish when we work together to address a problem.”



tim.collins@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Sooke

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

First Nation community signs enforcement agreement with Conservation Officer Service

This is the fourth such agreement in the Cariboo Chilcotin

100 per cent of Cariboo businesses have had to reduce employee hours or lay employees off, study finds

This survey was conducted by the BC Chamber of Commerce called the COVID-19 Impact Pulse Check #3

B.C. First Nation adopts historic law to protect Fraser River

?Esdilagh (Alexandria) First Nation leaders enacted the law this week

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping the Williams Lake Tribune continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Police watchdog recommends charges against five Mounties in Prince George man’s death

Police used pepper spray on the man, who then had trouble breathing before dying at the scene

B.C. tourism seeks relief as businesses wait for COVID-19 restrictions to ease

Mid-June earliest for more in-province travel to be authorized

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

B.C. woman launches First Nations search, rescue and patrol program

Linda Peters envisions trained searchers ready to go at moment’s notice in each B.C. First Nation

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

Most Read