By Melanie Law
Special to the Observer
Kersley Dale Landing Road is a pot-holed, dead-end dirt road about four minutes south of the Kersley General Store on Highway 97. Turning right off the highway, the road meanders past a set of mailboxes and a heavily treed area, before homes become visible on the left-and right-hand sides. Turning a bumpy corner, a sign comes into view: “Road Closed.”
Beyond that closure sign, the road narrows and descends, cutting into the side of a steep hill. One side is a sheer drop down to Kersley Creek, the other a vertical wall of rock and loose gravel.
That steep hill is the site of significant erosion. Like many of the roads in the Cariboo, Kersley Dale Landing Road has suffered from two years of wet weather undermining its structure. In some areas, only three metres of road remain.
Since November 2020, when B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) erected the closure signs and ceased maintenance on the road, not many have ventured past the signs.
It’s now a user-maintained road according to Emcon Services North Cariboo division manager John Andrushko.
“It’s still owned by the Ministry, but is not anything that Emcon has contractual obligations to grade or ditch or do anything on,” he explained. Emergency services like fire trucks and ambulances are also not required to cross the road.
For some families, the crumbling road is their only way home. For six months, residents have been waiting for a decision from MOTI on what will happen to the road, with no answers in sight.
Trampus and Jessica Goodman own one of six properties past the unstable area.
“We only got, I would say, maybe five days notice that they were going to close the road and not do winter maintenance,” said Trampus. “They gave us a phone call on a Monday in October, saying they’re not going to do it anymore. And so as soon as the snow falls, the road is officially closed. And it snowed two days later.”
Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes said she is “deeply concerned” about MOTI’s ability to keep up maintenance on roads in her riding.
“Government needs to do be doing a far better job and we deserve the right to more fulsome updates… I have put in numerous requests [to] the Ministry for an update on Kersley Dale Landing Road and other areas of concern,” she said.
The Goodmans work in Quesnel, Trampus as a realtor and Jessica as a pharmacist. They have two boys, 5 and 2, who attend school and daycare in Quesnel.
After the November 2020 announcement, when their property was put on evacuation alert by the Cariboo Regional District (CRD), the couple say they parked their vehicle at the top of the hill and walked 1 km through the slide area. But with two young kids, dropping temperatures, and mounting snow, it became unwieldy. They made the decision, like some of their neighbours, to continue to drive up and down the hill, even as they watched pieces crumble away.
The couple have a working farm, with cows, chickens, sheep and goats. Regardless of whether the family moves, someone will still need to travel Kersley Dale Landing Road to care for the animals and the property.
“The road will slough off, it’ll get narrow, and then it’ll be pretty scary for the first couple times, and then you kind of get used to it. And then you’re like, ‘OK, I guess I can do this.’ So keep going,” said Jessica.
Although the extent of the landslide has worsened, the couple says the road has been slowly sloughing into the creek for years.
“It was two years of watching pylons getting put on the side of the road and then watching them fall off (down the slope). And the next day, seeing new pylons in their place,” said Trampus. “I had a conversation with the Emcon guy that does the road grading. And he said, ‘Yeah, I see it sloughing, I’ll let my managers know.’ And then he proceeded to grade over all of the cracks and sloughing. And that was two years ago.”
Emcon’s Andrushko agreed that the road has been an unstable landslide area for some time, but according to MOTI’s spokesperson, who replied to the Observer’s questions via email, before the road closure last fall, “there was no warning of the significant failure that occurred.”
Whether there was warning or not, the fact remains a handful of Quesnel residents are in a tough position – not wanting to abandon their properties, but also in danger if they continue using the road.
“I just don’t really know what else to do. You’re making choices for your kids… I just really hope that nothing bad happens,” said Jessica.
Of the six households affected by the road closure, four have secured rental properties, with MOTI footing the bill, according to CRD manager of communications Chris Keam.
The Ministry will cover a home rental (but not furniture, moving expenses, storage, or livestock relocation) or hotel stays for those affected.
With the spring freshet making roads across the Cariboo even less stable, the family moved into a rental as well. The property will not house their livestock, and is a stop-gap measure as they wait for more information.
“We have (the rental) there for when we can’t access our house anymore. And then we know we have somewhere to go when it’s raining,” said Trampus.
According to MOTI, the condition of the road will only worsen. In an email sent to Trampus’ father (who also lives on Kersley Dale Landing Road), Ian Grant, MOTI area manager, said engineers assessed the road again on March 30.
“As higher level snow packs melt due to the unseasonably warm, dry weather, MOTI expects additional road degradation as Kersley Creek swells,” he wrote.
In his email, Grant said MOTI is investigating options for long-term road access, but did not mention a timeline.
“We know that people would like to see access restored quickly; however, the area remains unstable and the safety of work crews and road users must remain our top priority,” a MOTI spokesperson said. The spokesperson added MOTI plans to engage with residents again this spring.
For residents, though, it’s a more urgent matter, with livelihoods, mortgages and livestock on the line. They need a decision.
“(We need) a clear-cut answer, versus being in limbo,” said Jessica. “Maybe they say, ‘We’re not fixing your road, too bad. Your house is going to be condemned.’”
“Just tell me real quick,” agreed Trampus. “I don’t care what answer they come to, but they have got to come up with an answer quick. Because how do we live this life?”
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.