Bamfield road upgrades have residents excited about growth

The road to Bamfield remains a dusty, bumpy route, but upgrades are underway, and the community is expecting them to have a significant impact. (CTV)

The road to Bamfield remains a dusty, bumpy route, but upgrades are underway, and the community is expecting them to have a significant impact.

"It will definitely increase how many people come to visit," said Marnie McAughtrie, president of the local chamber of commerce.

"We want to make sure that Bamfield stays as beautiful and pristine as it is now."

The province and the Huu-ay-aht First Nation are collaborating on the $30.7-million upgrade project, which will include a hard seal along the 76-kilometre route, as well as paving in some areas. 

The project was announced in the fall of 2020, roughly a year after a fatal bus crash that killed two University of Victoria students on their way to Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.

Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr. told CTV News a hard seal on the road will mean "a lot of things" for the nation, noting that the bumpy ride on the current road surface is especially hard on elders.

"Having a surface road, from an economic perspective, will really help our local economy," Dennis said. "We can diversify, expand our tourism (and) business opportunities, so it's going to be exciting."

Bamfield and nearby Anacla enjoy a laid-back lifestyle for most of the year, but some residents expect the pace to pick up with an improved link to Port Alberni and the rest of Vancouver Island.

"We can see already that we're starting to get busier and we're doing what we can to increase our infrastructure," said McAughtrie.

Bob Beckett - director of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District's "Area A," which includes Bamfield - said he wants to make sure any growth in the region is well planned for.

"Folks are concerned about overnight change," Beckett said. "That's not going to happen, and I think what's really important to our community is that we manage that change."

The local business community is already preparing for an influx of visitors. The Pachena Bay Campground recently created 60 new campsites, and on the west side of the community, the Bamfield Inn has opened in a century-old building that had been abandoned.

"It's going to be huge," said manager Tara McNeill.

"It's been over 20 years since this has been open as a restaurant and bar, and there's nothing over here at the moment, so it's going to be great because we can have social events and get-togethers."

The target date for completion of the road work is September 2023. 

With files from CTV Vancouver Island's Gord Kurbis