Over the next few months, responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the Murray Forest Service Road will be transferred to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Calm down, it doesn’t mean the road is getting paved.
MLA for Peace River South Mike Bernier was in town on August 25 to make the announcement. He says while paving is not out of the question, it’s not even in the picture right now. “The most important thing is to make sure the road is getting maintained,” says Bernier.
“We’ve done a fairly good job of doing what we can over the years, but a major portion of the road was Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resources,” he says. “Thanks to Minister Todd Stone and all the people in the Ministry, we are announcing they are no longer responsible for that road. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is now responsible for that road.”
What does that mean? For one, it means the road will no longer be worked on only when there is logging happening down the valley. Instead, says Bernier, “It’s going to be a seasonal access road, because the majority of transportation that goes on that road is in the summer. We want to make sure people have the best access to the falls possible. It’s going to work out to a couple hundred thousand dollars a year that go into maintaining the road. Moving forward, we’re going to look at what needs to be done to improve the road, whether that’s bridges or ditching. Those plans are going to be worked out, but we couldn’t have done that without putting that in the Ministry of Transportation’s hands.”
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. holds an industrial road-use permit to km 21.5 of the road. Forest Service Roads that are used for industrial purposes require a road-use permit to be issued to the user. The road-use permit holder is required to maintain the road, says the Ministry, which is why the first section of the road is in better condition than the last section.
Beyond, the road was maintained by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to a “non-industrial” standard.
“One of the priorities in our BC on the Move 10-year transportation plan was to find opportunities to maintain public access to resource and backcountry roads,” says Minister Todd Stone. “With the transfer of Murray Forest Service Road to the ministry, we will be able to ensure that the road is maintained to a standard that supports regular traffic for residents and for tourists visiting the region.”
Maintenance work on the road will begin sometime this fall, with additional work planned for next spring.
The change, says Stone, will ensure consistent and ongoing maintenance of the road during the summer months, so residents and tourists can have better access to these tourist attractions.
The road also accesses a large portion of the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark. Bernier says that what affects Tumbler Ridge’s tourism affects the entire region. “One of the things mayor and council have been coming forward and saying year after year is the road to Kinuseo Falls. It’s amazing to go out and visit and camp at. It’s one of the iconic falls in the province. In fact, I was at Expo 2010 in Shanghai at the BC Pavilion. What was the BC Pavilion? It was a big picture of Kinuseo Falls. ‘Come see British Columbia.’ It said. That’s what they were showcasing in China. I said ‘that’s amazing, thank you, but now we need to make it easier for people to get to.’”
“I’m thrilled that the ministry has been able to proceed with the transfer of the Kinuseo Falls Road this fall,” said Bernier. “This is something the District of Tumbler Ridge has been asking for and the commitment by the ministry to maintain the road will give the district the opportunity to promote the spectacular tourist attractions in the area. Now when they go to UBCM, they’ll be able to spend their 15 minutes with the Minister talking about other things.”
Mayor Don McPherson says he’s been fighting to see work go into the road for at least 16 years, ever since the dinosaur tracks were first discovered. “I want to thank Mike Bernier for helping Council reach the goal of having the road to Kinuseo Falls maintained in summer,” he says. “Kinuseo Falls is one of the most beautiful in the world. Its image has been used to promote Canada to the world. Being able to keep the road maintained for tourists in the summer will help give tourists confidence to visit this wonderful place.”
He says getting the road maintained is going to be one of the biggest things for the town next to the Geopark. “We can now advertise the falls. That will bring in tonnes of people. People want to see it but the road has its reputation. When I in the hospital in Edmonton, I was talking to the nurses, and one told me she had come out to see the falls. She told everyone in the hospital not to take the road. That affects the way people look at the place. I’ve heard similar stories so many times.”
Bernier says he will be discussing options with the District and the Ministry for a new name for the road, one that will better reflect the tourism links in the area. “If they want to suggest a name, or hold a contest, we’re open to that,” he says.