West opening up

It is a little odd that we have so few roads that run eastwest on Vancouver Island. But we think it’s only a matter of time before that changes and we’d like to see Cowichan reap the benefits of any new routes.

We’re not sure how the status quo came about – early settlers travelled more frequently by boat, perhaps, and didn’t want to go to the work of clearing the heavy forest for a public highway in a pre-car era?

Trains, of course, were also a much more prevalent mode of travel, for both passengers and industry.

Right now, it’s very inconvenient to have to travel to Qualicum before you can head west to Port Alberni and beyond to Tofino and Ucluelet.

But that’s the only really feasible way to get there.

There are logging and industrial roads that head into the very rugged territory between the Lake Cowichan area and Port Alberni, but they are impassible in some weather to all, and not a drive many would choose to take at any time of year.

It’s a bit of a mystery why these passes have not been opened more thoroughly before now. Perhaps it’s because, also rather oddly, there has been comparatively little development on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

There are the communities of Port Renfrew, Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet, but measured against the development of the east coast of the Island, the west is still a little-settled wilderness.

That could also change. But even if it doesn’t, we see huge potential in having a route pass through the Cowichan Lake area to the west.

Even without the big industrial projects the Huu-ay-aht are championing, the route is worth opening up.

Many of the communities around Cowichan Lake have been hit hard in the last 20 to 30 years with the closure of mills and the evaporation of many forestry jobs.

But consider the possibilities if they were not the end of the line, so to speak, but rather a gateway to the west.

Support to upgrade the road to a public highway is the right move. We join the Huu-ay-aht in hoping the “when” is soon.

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