A paved route to Nitinat could be a road to riches, if some enterprising Cowichan folks get their way.
Led by Ian Morrison, the Cowichan Valley Regional District director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, a new road to the remote lake and area could pave the way for tremendous economic opportunities.
“We’ve had discussions with the Ditidaht First Nations out at Nitinat Lake and just looked at the economic development potential and the fact the Pacific Marine Circle Road (former logging roads linking the communities of Victoria, Mill Bay, Duncan, Lake Cowichan, Port Renfrew and Sooke) was such a success that way,” said Morrison.
The road to Nitinat Lake begins just where the pavement ends in Honeymoon Bay. It includes about 80-km of winding, snaking logging roads starting along the south shore route of Lake Cowichan.
“That’s provincial government highway jurisdiction because it’s a private industrial road,” Morrison said.
“My understanding is TimberWest still owns most of it, but there are some small holdings — Island Timberlands, that sort of thing — but it’s a private road where they allow public access.”
And there lies the rub, said Morrison.
“If the bush is shut down because of fire or snow or whatever, then they don’t maintain it.”
Morrison said talks are “extremely preliminary,” but there have been a couple of meetings.
“On Sept. 24 a delegation of CVRD people and some Ditidaht representation, met with Minister (of Transportation and Infrastructure) Todd Stone and just floated the idea to see if there was any interest on the government’s part to explore this,” he said.
“I think we at least gave (the province) an idea worth studying.”
For Morrison, it’s a no-brainer.
“Nitinat Lake has world-class windsurfing, there’s possible other access to the federal park — there are tourism and job possibilities and lots of good reasons to get that to a public road status,” he said.
Morrison again pointed to the Pacific Marine Circle Road as an example of what a little pavement can do for local economies.
“The circle route has been such a success and has really triggered a whole bunch of new activity in the Cowichan Lake area as far as tourism and opening access to the West Coast,” he said.
“I remember shortly after I was elected I was at a Chamber (of Commerce) event and they were talking about how they wanted to push to hit the 20,000-visitor mark.
“I was at a chamber event in the middle of last week where they announced they were less than 100 shy of 28,000 this year, and it’s only mid-October.”
Morrison said the chamber is expecting upwards of 30,000 visitors in 2015.
“There are motorcycle tours, cyclist tours over the weekend and just people going for a nice drive — all because of the Pacific Circle Route,” he said.
Despite the good intentions, a paved road to Nitinat is probably a ways off yet, said Morrison.
“It will probably end up being a multi-stage approach,” he said.
“It’s really just a case now that we’ve made the (provincial) contacts; they have agreed to talk and communication lines are being set up.”