ALERT BAY—Ongoing trespassing at Alert bay’s air strip during could cause the Village to lose a valued service if the activity is not curbed.
During its regular council meeting Feb. 14, Mayor Michael Berry told council, “we would be delisted,” and “Medivac would not come here.” Berry was trying to stress the importance of keeping people from engaging in their walks, bicycle rides, and other recreational pursuits on the landing strip. Councillor Lisanne Granger pointed out that Cormorant Island has an aging population and (Medivac) is going to be a needed service.
This discussion is part of a long-standing struggle to keep residents from trespassing, and the issue has taken a higher priority following a recent incident involving children playing on the strip. A local pilot had to abort a landing when he encountered a cyclist on the strip. For many years seeing people walking their dogs or just power walking has been a common sight there.
Ideas for deterring this included additional fencing and increasing police efforts to fine people who do trespass. Council is asking police to hand out $115 tickets to anyone caught trespassing.
Current efforts have included signage, ribbon barriers and a camera. Letters have been sent to identified trespassers, but many can not be identified due to observational direction or the wearing of hoodies. Village CAO Heather Nelson-Smith pointed out the large amount of time it takes to review the video which takes away from working on productive Village business. Public Works foreman Pete Nelson stated, “people just pull the ribbon down,” and on one occasion the the camera was turned off to avoid detection.
The upcoming demolition of St. Michael’s Indian Residential School is expected to cause some road closures in Alert Bay this March. As a part of this process, many tons of brick will be taken off the island by a barge expected to be located on Fir St. near the old hospital site. The removal is expected to close the road for 17 days.
Concern about damage to the roads by the heavy equipment was raised by council members. In addition to protective measures taken by the as-yet-unnamed contractor, the Village is expecting $20,000 in compensation since some damage is inevitable.
The entire tear down is expected to be completed by March 31. The initial phase of the tear down will involve the removal of the building’s asbestos.
St. Michael’s was built in 1929 and, until its closure in 1975, housed thousands of children causing inestimable harm to many generations of first nations people. Although there were arguments in favour of keeping the building standing, many found its ongoing presence a too-bitter reminder of an ugly chapter in Canadian history.