Province chose Cowichan detour route over Horne Lake Connector for safety

Province chose Cowichan detour route over Horne Lake Connector for safety

Travellers hoping to find the Horne Lake Connector open as a route around the Cameron Bluff fire Friday were instead met with signs telling them the road was closed.

Mosaic Forest Management, which has been criticized online for gating off the road, says the gravel logging road is closed to the public and that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure specifically chose the Cowichan detour route instead.

“Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure reviewed multiple options with Mosaic, including the Horne Lake route, and they selected the Cowichan route for public access as the safest alternative to Highway 4,” Mosaic said in a statement to CHEK News. “They have assumed responsibility for traffic and safety on the Cowichan route. We are working closely with MOTI to support emergency evacuation routes and alternatives to Highway 4 and taking their lead as the government authority.”

“It really has a single lane the entire way, it requires a pilot car the entire way. Certain vehicles can’t get through there, smaller like passenger vehicles. It does require 4×4. It can not accommodate a full-size legal load, so some significant limitations to the Horne Lake Connector that really don’t make it a great choice,” said Janelle Staite, MOTI Deputy Director for the South Coast Region.

Another route that CHEK viewers have been emailing about is between the Comox Valley and Port Alberni, using Comox Lake Road. It connects with Ash Main and Beaver Creek Road, but it too is closed by Mosaic because of active logging.

But that didn’t stop travellers showing up there, many of them telling CHEK News they followed the map on their phone indicating the route was open.

“It looked like I could go, I was aware there was a forest fire and I know it’s a logging road but I trusted in my Google Maps,” said Daniel Leen from Seattle.

Tourism officials in Port Alberni say they’ve been inundated with people wondering how to get in or out of Port Alberni.

“On the first day of the closure, the first full business day on the Wednesday, we had over 300 people and we fielded over 50 phone calls from people asking about the road,” said Jolleen Dick, CEO of the Port Alberni Chamber of Commerce.

She says one of the best sources of road information is DriveBC.

One couple visiting from Germany with their big rented motor home decided to cancel a planned trip to Tofino Friday as Highway 4 remained closed, and the Cowichan detour was also closed from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“Oh yes, we’re disappointed,” said Petra Lukiewski from Berlin, Germany. “Yes really, so we’ll have to come again.”

Highway 4 will be closed through the weekend.

“We are continuing to see a significant amount of debris coming down the upslope so those include full trees, partial trees, large boulders, rocks,” added Staite.

Island Health is now flying nurses and doctors to Port Alberni from Qualicum Beach as many of the health care professionals don’t live in Port Alberni.

“It’s critical, I mean, it’s a fully functioning hospital,” said Matt Hudson who is a general surgeon at West Coast General Hospital. “We do surgery there. There’s an ICU there. There was very quickly a recognition that a significant part of our workforce does not live in Port Alberni.”

“I thought they might cancel my shifts but I got a text from my nurse manager and said we’re flying you all over, stay tuned and I was like ok no worries, where do I need to be?” said nurse Liz Patola.

READ MORE: Detour around Highway 4 is closed until 9 p.m. Friday

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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