Wells mayor Robin Sharpe and CRD Area C director John Massier presented the proposed road – the Purden Lake Connector.
The Purden Connector Proposal highlights three key reasons for a new circle route.
“Our biggest concern in Wells is emergency access to get people out if the highway is blocked,” Sharpe said.
“If there’s a fire on the way there, there’s only one other route out and this summer it was closed for five months.
“I think we need a second emergency access route into Wells and Barkerville.”
Another reason Wells and Barkerville representatives are lobbying for this new route is an increase in tourism.
The pair explained the new circle route would open possibilities for driving tours as well
as wilderness viewing tours.
The new route would grant the area more recreational access as well as increased economic opportunities for First Nations.
“This route will create big tourism opportunities,” Massier explained.
“People can come down from Prince George, out to Purden Lake, down to Bowron Lake, out to Purden Lake, down to Wells, out to Quesnel and do a circle tour instead of coming down and back out each time.”
Sharpe and Massier pointed to a series of reviews and reports conducted, four since 2004.
These reports brought forward issues such as environmental damage, community consultation and First Nations consultation.
These preliminary reports showed the road upgrade would cause the least environmental damage and will require minimal cost and maintenance.
The preliminary First Nations consultation (conducted in 2010) drew interest from four bands, Lheidli T’enneh, Lhtako Dene, Nazko and Simpcw.
The report shows the bands have expressed desire for “interest in wildlife and environmental protection, high road standards, high recognition in Barkerville and commercial opportunities.”
A phase-in option (plan b) would see the existing road widened to eight meters, graveled and re-shaped.
This option would require an investment to the tune of approximately $1 million.
The new route would use existing logging roads to connect roads along the Bowron River.
“The route in question that needs repair is about 15 kilometers starting near the end of the existing Bowron Lake Road and continuing downstream along the Bowron River where it intersects with an existing logging road,” Massier said.
That logging road then continues 64 km to Hwy 16 just east of Purden Lake.
Massier and Sharpe highlighted the fact that most infrastructure needed is already in place, mainly two bridges, one which requires minor re-decking.
During the meeting, Councillor Ed Coleman showed interest in re-endorsing this project and Councillor Scott Elliott reiterated the need for a secondary route out of Wells.
“It’s a no brainer as far as community safety is concerned,” Elliott said.
“Something needs to be done.”
Councillor Mike Cave took particular interest in the tourism opportunities.
“These back roads are how we showcase how good British Columbia is,” he said.
“It’s not by driving down the highway, you see it by driving down these back roads.”
Council voted to bring this matter into a regular council meeting, check future issues of
the Observer for updates.