On VanIsle, it can be hard to keep people in tiny towns.
Unstable healthcare and a lack of jobs are just a couple of the barriers that can keep families from living in otherwise beautiful communities.
Anacla and Bamfield are two such communities, and having a safe road into town has been a huge barrier for them to change that.
Now, the road is finally close to being finished, and people are getting excited.
Most folks in these places have had jobs in natural resources, like logging and fishing. But chief councillor for the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, Robert Dennis, says the new upgrades to the road may change that.
“It’s going to enable Huu-ay-aht First Nation to diversify its economy where we wouldn’t have to be primarily dependent on the resource economy,” Dennis told Alberni Valley News.
“We can now diversify into tourism, and that’s what we’ve been slowly transitioning into.”
The road to the area was mostly used by loggers, the Huu-ay-aht, and folks going to the Bamfield research station. But the road was deadly. And one of the only other options to get to medical appointments and grocery stores in Port Alberni is the MV Lady Rose.
The government didn’t agree to seal the road until two UVic students were killed on a field trip to Bamfield in 2019.
But with a better road, the region could become the next Tofino.
“Getting people to turn left instead of right in Port Alberni is huge,” said John Jack, deputy chief councillor to Alberni Valley News.
“We know that there’s quite a bit of people who kind of overflow into Tofino, and therefore they don’t have accommodations. We can provide for them as good an experience as time goes by.”
The region is already one end to the Pacific Coast Trail. And Pachena Bay campground is one of the most beautiful in the region.
Beyond just paving and marking the road, they’re hoping to regulate cutblocks along the way, for a more scenic route.
“We want the corridor potentially to be a pleasant driving experience into our territory,” said Jack. “Our practices are pretty good as they stand, and are likely to get better.”
Along with the family minivans, ambulances will be able to quickly make their way into town as well. That will make an immense difference for both residents and tourists.
“This means that we’ll probably have more people who are elders, or may need more rapid access to care, being willing to come and stay in our community overnight or live here,” said Jack.
“That’s huge, because that will bring for us a lot more resources, and people willing to be in the community.”
Just three years ago, Anacla had only about 85 residents. Now, the population has more than doubled to 170, and it’s likely only going up.
“It presents a lot of opportunities, but also a lot of changes,” said Jack.
With the new road, hopefully everyone will be able to navigate the changes together.