The first parking lot gate at Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, which belongs to the B.C. government, will now be closed at night and during flooding.
The decision comes after a deadly crash last week. A.J. Jensen, Eric Blackmore and Cory Mills died during heavy rainfall and flooding. Officials suspect their truck may have gone into the Sooke River past the gate.
The three 20-year-old men had gone missing Friday night after they left an Otter Point Road home in a Dodge pickup truck. The blue Dodge Dakota the men were travelling in was found in the 3000-block of Sooke River Road on Sunday evening.
The Capital Regional District (CRD) has a gate further into the provincial park. The district closes it every night after 9 p.m. and during flooding.
CRD’s Juan de Fuca director Mike Hicks offered to have their contractor also lock the province’s gate.
“I especially want the gate shut when there is a flood, to protect the kids and the people of Sooke, and the Juan de Fuca and Langford and your kid,” Hicks said.
“Let’s get on it… at least let’s shut that gate when there is a flood coming.”
Hicks has been speaking with Premier John Horgan since the crash, and late Friday afternoon the province took him up on the CRD’s offer.
The gate will now be closed after 9 p.m. every night and during flooding.
“It hits close to home, because most of us have sons and a lot of them have four wheel drive trucks, and any one of them could have been at the potholes on that evening,” Hicks said.
Residents say the water levels were some of the highest they had ever seen the weekend of the crash.
Eric Eay built his house just down the road back in 1968 and says flooding is nothing new. He says the gate should have been closed that night.
“I’ve seen the river up on the road, I’ve seen a canoe on the road in water,” said Eay.
“The gate has been pretty near a waste of time putting it there. It used to be used but it hasn’t been used for years. It would have saved the lives of those kids.”
The move is one small change many are hoping will prevent another unthinkable tragedy.
The Sooke deaths are under investigation by the BC Coroners Service. The province says they are waiting for the results of the coroners investigation and will make any changes that are recommended.