Some hard to access places in northern Vancouver Island will be a little easier to get to once the North Island/Central Coast FLNRO Engineering department is through. (Zoë Ducklow photo)

Some north Island forest service roads to get a minor facelift with COVID-19 recovery funding

Side Bay access road no longer ‘up in the bureaucratic air’ thanks to temporary budget increase

Days after the Gazette reported on funding struggles for the remote Side Bay access road on Vancouver Island’s north west coast, the B.C. government’s stimulus package provided a welcome, if temporary, boost to the North Island/Central Coast budget.

Former finance minister Carole James approved an “uplift” to the regular budget, “for specific areas and a very short period of time to make improvements within a certain scope to benefit the area,” a Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations’ (FLNRO) staffer said.

The money is part of the $1.5-billion COVID-19 economic recovery plan announced by the government days before calling an election.

READ MORE: B.C.’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan: Top 5 things you need to know

FLNRO’s North Island/Central Coast Engineering department will use the money to repair Side Bay road, and possibly start the parking lot they proposed as an alternate access point to the beach. Side Bay road needs brushing, grading, ditch work, and erosion and slope control. The nearby Restless Main forest service road (FSR) will also get brushed out.

The engineering officer in charge is ready to jump on the projects, though he could always use more cash.

“I just react and try and make things happen as efficiently and quickly as possible, otherwise the funding can disappear as easy as it came.

“If you get a reputation for getting things done, which FLNRO Engineering Branch has, you can be more likely to see sudden funding uplifts in times of need,” he said.

The temporary increase allowed the engineering department to shift the regular budget to other needed jobs: grading and resurfacing parts of the Georgie Lake FSR (a pot-holed twisting route); grading the Mount Cain FSR ahead of a hopefully busy winter sports season, and coordinating with BC Parks to upgrade some Schoen Lake camp sites.

FLNRO Engineering will also use the uplift funds to do some much needed work across the Queen Charlotte Strait in Bella Coola. The Clayton FSR near Clayton Falls — famous to some for hosting a Toyota commercial — and the Nusatsum FSR popular with heli-skiers.

RELATED: Access to remote Side Bay beach up in the bureaucratic air

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