People who live near Sasquatch Mountain Resort are calling on the B.C. government to overhaul the road where a landslide trapped hundreds of people at the top of the mountain for days.
The landslide that came down Friday night after days of heavy rain tore out a section of Hemlock Valley Road, which is the only route up and down the mountain.
No one was injured, but up to 500 people were forced to spend multiple nights at the resort until helicopters brought several of them down over the weekend. A pilot vehicle escorted the rest of the guests out through the road this week.
But residents who live in the community near the resort say it’s only a matter of time before another road failure leads to injury or even death.
“There’s potholes, there’s extreme weather [on the road], in the past 18 months there’s been a lot of logging activity, too,” said Christine Nielsen, whose family owns a cabin in the area. “All of that has contributed to the washout.
“You know, best case scenario, maybe you blow a tire because you hit a pothole. Worst case scenario, you’re killed.”
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Nielsen says while her family has only recently moved into the area, she’s talked to longtime residents whose concerns about the road go back 20 to 30 years.
“I have friends here that went up as children and are like, ‘I remember driving that road and I was always so terrified,’” she said. “And, you know, here we are. They come up and they visit us 20 years later.”
The Ministry of Transportation estimated Saturday it would take five to six days to reopen the road to alternating single-lane traffic as crews clear the landslide and repair the washed-out section. The road was still closed Wednesday night.
It’s not yet clear how extensive the repairs will be beyond simply making it passable. The ministry says it is meeting with stakeholders to determine next steps.
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Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said until the next phase of action is announced, the priority is getting the road reopened.
“Obviously an assessment needs to take place on exactly the state of the road, and what needs to be done to fix it,” Farnworth said.
But Nielsen says that’s not good enough. Her husband has started a petition calling on the province to improve the road beyond its previous condition, accusing the government of letting it “deteriorate to a state where a catastrophe like this was inevitable.”
As of late Wednesday night, the petition had gained over 2,000 signatures, closing in on its goal of 2,500.
Nielsen says with Sasquatch planning a massive expansion — one the province says will be the foundation of a revenue-sharing agreement with the local Sts’ailes First Nation — it’s up to the government to ensure the expected increase in tourists and residents have a safe road to travel on.
“The resort is going to get a lot more attention and people coming up there, but who’s going to come up there when you know the road is in the state that it’s in?” she asked.
“Sometimes we feel like it’s going to take like a tragedy or someone getting hurt or even killed to actually get the government to step up and fix the road.”
—With files from Aaron McArthur
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