Gates blocking a section of McCoy Lake Road have generated concern for first responders and Sproat Lake residents.
The section of the road, between Stirling Arm Drive and the Pacific Rim Highway, has been closed for several months after a bridge over a culvert washed out on this portion of road during flooding last October.
The road cuts through Bill Thomson’s farm and although it has been used publicly for many years, it considered private property, officials claim.
Sometime over the May long weekend, the landowner put gates up on McCoy Lake road closest to Stirling Arm Drive.
The Alberni Valley News tried to reach Thomson several times for his point of view, but he did not return calls by press time.
Mike Cann, Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Department chief, said the road closure has slowed down response times for emergency vehicles.
“McCoy Lake Road being severed in half has caused us issues ever since they shut the road down; it’s cut our district right in half almost,” Cann said. “It slows the response of our entrance and our crews getting to where they’re needed.”
Cann said the gates also block off access to the owner’s property.
“We’d have to cut through the locks even to access his house if there’s ever an emergency there,” Cann said.
Jason Heywood, McCoy Lake resident whose property sits above Thomson’s farm, said he’s very upset with the gate that’s causing much more traffic along Stirling Arm Drive and Faber Road.
“Everybody that’s out in [Great Central Lake] and out [Sproat Lake] that want to come to the dump have to go into town and come back out McCoy Lake Road. It’s just a lot of inconvenience,” Heywood said. “This is affecting people’s lives every day to do with safety, fire and convenience.”
Penny Cote, Sproat Lake director with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, said the bridge on McCoy Lake Road that was damaged from the flooding, to her knowledge, has not been repaired.
“I know that the Ministry of Transportation wants to replace it,” she said. “Hopefully that will happen this year.
“That [road] is a vital artery within the community and the first responders and fire department are so looking forward to that access being opened again.
“It is a matter of life and death in certain situations and we’re just entering into fire season again and it’s going to be important that the bridge is replaced. As far as the gate goes I don’t know why it’s there.”
Cote said she has received several calls from Sproat Lake residents asking when the road will be reopened.
A Ministry of Transportation spokesperson said historically, the ministry has maintained McCoy Lake Road and that they are aware that a private property owner recently installed a gate across a section of the road.
They said staff are working with the property owner to find a solution.