A damaged cattle guard which is part of the commute for Buckridge and ?Esdilagh community members after West Fraser Road washed out in April 2018. Contributed photo

Letter: 2020 reopening of West Fraser Road is unacceptable

Letter writer details many problems with the current detour route

Editor,

I am writing this letter as a concerned member of the West Fraser Buckridge Community, and an employee of ?Esdilagh First Nation. The governments decision to begin construction on the West Fraser Road in 2020 is unacceptable and irresponsible. To say that you cannot do anything until studies are complete is nothing more than a procrastination of the government. They have been studying the West Fraser road for years. It should not take more than six to 12 months to come up with a plan and more than two years to start the construction. West Fraser Road needs to be a priority for economical and, most importantly, safety reasons.

1. Safety – close calls – blind windy corners combined with terrible washboard, and dust from logging trucks. Young families and Elders having to drive this remote logging road. On Aug. 15 going to town, my husband and I came upon a young mom with two small children in the car broke down with a flat tire with no cell service to call for help. During a wind storm on Aug. 11 we had a tree fall over a power line, starting a fire. I called 911 and was told to stay clear, and they would send Hydro out. With the detour and the washboard, it took over two hours. Luckily a neighbour had a water tank. I am afraid of the day when someone from the community will need an ambulance.

2. Financial burden for the community, flat tires, too many to record all, but some examples: my son wrecked a brand-new rim because of a boulder from the road, another son put on new tires, and three days later popped one on the Garner Road and the warranty will not cover it. Cracked windshields, and I have recorded many mechanical/incidents from driving on the washboard and needing a tow truck. Community members are going to Williams Lake to shop, and not spending their dollars in Quesnel and destroying their vehicles.

3. School bus – the children already had a long commute, as our school was closed in 2014. They were spending up to three hours a day on a bus; now with the detour these children are spending over four hours combined with a six-hour school day. Children as young as five years old are putting in a 10.5 hour day. The thought of these children travelling on a bus on a cold winter day on a remote logging road creates a lot of worry and anxiety for our community.

4. First Nation interest – ?Esdilagh First Nations is situated on the east and west side of the Fraser River approximately half way between Quesnel and Williams Lake, with community members living on both sides. In 2002 the government discontinued the ferry service which allowed east side members to participate in Traditional Healings, practices, and to receive essential services. Now members from the east side can not participate in events, meetings, or receive these services. It is uneconomical and dangerous for our Elderly members to make the three to four hour commute on a remote logging road. A family has been separated, and a father has decided to send his daughter to live with her grandmother in Williams Lake to attend school.

5. Burden on families – with the washout, families are being separated. A young mom who works as a nurse in town cannot depend on the road being cleared on winter mornings when she has to work a early shift with no cell service, she is worried for her five-year-old daughter having to spend over four hours a day on a bus; it is not only the one-hour increase but the remote logging road she would have to travel during the winter. She will be spending her week in town, also adding a financial burden. Ranches have been separated; Roddie Ranch had a 15-minute commute to operate their ranch, now it is one hour each way, adding a financial burden and taking away family time.

The Webster/Garner Road detour was never designed to withstand this volume of traffic; it is pounding out daily and will not last until 2020. There will be no road to drive on. Culverts are starting to cave in. The six cattle guards are breaking apart. The single-lane bridge on Webster Lake Road that was constructed for light use only and not open to commercial traffic is slowly being destroyed by graders, logging trucks, and roughly 200 vehicles crossing a day. This year, Garner Road should have been in the evacuation order due to the Narcosli Fire, but was kept open so we had a route to Quesnel. Earlier Chief Roy Stump from ?Esdilagh wrote a letter stating this very concern. Chief Roy has employees and Elders forced to drive this road and is very concerned for their safety.

This government needs to step up and start the re construction of the West Fraser Road now. It can not delay until 2020.

Sherry Webster

Quesnel, B.C.

READ MORE: West Fraser Road closed until at least 2020, says Ministry of Transportation

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