Chopping down trees to widen Beitush Road in Tlell is a shortsighted plan which would destroy its scenic appeal and result in habitat loss and erosion, according to a couple of islanders.
Jack Miller and Rolf Bettner fired off letters last week to provincial ministries voicing their concerns about the planned road improvement, scheduled to be carried out this fall.
The scenic unpaved road runs along the Tlell River, important habitat for salmon and other creatures.
“Cutting these trees will have a devastating effect on forest cover – the shading these trees provide to the Tlell River which is quite shallow along the course of the Beitush Road is critical,” Mr. Bettner wrote. “Loss of the shading will increase in-stream water temperature, reduce refuge and ultimately deplete food sources for aquatic animals.”
Mr. Bettner made several other points, including that removing trees increases the risk of blowdown, and that higher speeds and increased traffic resulting from a wider road will destroy the route’s special ambience.
The Ministry of Transportation and Highways confirmed that it is planning to gravel, ditch and widen Beitush Road.
“In general, we looked at doing the bare minimum to make the road safe and easier to maintain,” said Geoff Phillips, acting district highways manager.
In some places the road isn’t wide enough for two cars to pass, Mr. Phillips said. The lack of ditches means water collects and weakens the road and then cars driving over the weakened sections create potholes. Trees pose a safety issue. Some residents have complained about the state of the road, he said.
But Mr. Miller said taking down trees won’t make the road any safer, because motorists will simply drive faster if the road is wider.
“Since removing perceived hazards (trees, bends etc.) will only result in higher traffic speeds, any notion of improved safety turns out to be a zero-sum game,” he wrote to the ministry.
Larry Proteau, the acting area manager who will supervise the work when it is done, did consult with some residents of the road who supported the road improvements, Mr. Phillips said. No formal survey of all residents has been done, but if people expressed concern about the proposed improvements, a formal survey could be done, he said.
The work is expected to begin in late fall and could take as much as two years. The ministry has recently upgraded several non-standard roads on the islands, Mr. Phillips said, including some side roads in Queen Charlotte, Tow Hill Road, Wiggins Road and Richardson Road.
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