A project to pave Kaslo South Road (aka the Back Road) and Zwicky Road has been cancelled.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says they won’t improve the road after locals complained about the project.
“The ministry saw many benefits to this proposal, however, many people in the community provided feedback that they preferred to leave the road in its present state as a gravel surface,” the department said in an email to the Valley Voice. “The ministry respected the wishes of the people in the community and has decided to move our paving program to other locations.”
The program would have seen the road, a winding, gravel six-kilometre stretch that ambles through farm and wild lands south of Kaslo, resurfaced with recycled asphalt pavement. The material was reclaimed from a resurfacing project on Hwy 31 a few years ago.
The value of the project was approximately $1 million.
While the project would have cut dust and maintenance problems, it was opposed by many residents living along the street. They cited concerns with speeding drivers, increased traffic, and the danger of increased accidents between pedestrians and wildlife.
“Can you imagine people coming off Hwy 31 and ripping down that back road? And it’s pretty curvy and narrow, so that’s what I was concerned about,” said Irma Aldinger. She particularly worried about accidents between vehicles and the bear and elk and other wildlife that live around her 100-acre property.
She says she’s willing to put up with the dust and potholes if it keeps people and animals safe.
“The officials in MOTI deserve a lot of credit for coming to this conclusion,” said Bill Wells, who lives near the road. “There are some valid reasons for the paving project. But it was clear to the majority of people who live on or near this road that the problems that would come with paving outweighed the benefits.”
Wells noted that more than 50 locals signed a petition to discontinue the project.
“It is a good example of how consulting with those affected by project plans can inform good decision-making,” Wells added. “I hope there will be more of this kind of interaction in the future.”
Aldinger also praised how MOTI handled the file.
“The MOTI people were very gracious, and very professional,” she says. “They answered our letters and listened to us, which I think is fantastic because a lot of times you don’t get heard.”
For its part, the ministry says the project is dead.
“The ministry respects the feedback from local residents to keep the road as is,” the department email says. “We are now reviewing other roads in the West Kootenay where we will carry on with our paving program.”
John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice