Cathedral Grove is known for the beauty of its old growth trees and the provincial park attracts an estimated half a million people a year but with the big crowds come major concerns about the potential for a fatality involving pedestrians crossing the highway.
“There will be one it’s just when and under what circumstance,” said Bill Collette, of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce. “I mean we’re very fortunate that we haven’t paid that price yet.”
It’s a dire warning the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce issued in a 2015 video.
Traffic along Highway 4, cutting right through the grove, only continues to grow, with millions travelling the route.
Chamber volunteers who give tourist information at the parking lot during the summer say they see their fair share of close calls.
“They see the chaos out there and they come back here on a daily basis and tell us horror stories,” said Collette.
The safety concerns are nothing new.
In 2004, the former provincial Liberal government looked at building a new parking lot inside the park.
The plan met with opposition from those worried it would mean the loss of too many old growth trees.
Some traffic calming measures were put in place but those at the site today say more safety improvements are needed.
“Designated crosswalks, maybe those flashing lights you see in the city at crosswalks would help a lot and more parking,” suggested Mike Akeui, who says he drives through the Grove often.
“I don’t know how you can solve it but it would be nice if they found a solution that’s for sure,” said Paul Berthoud, a Parksville resident.
“How about a second road out of Port Alberni?” sugged Dave Warrender, a Port Alberni resident.
The Transportation ministry is now looking for public input on how to improve safety in the area.
Two open houses will be held next week in Port Alberni and Parksville, and people can also weigh in online.
The ministry hopes to have plans in place by next spring.