The Barkerville Heritage Trust is seeking local government and public input on a plan to link the historic town site to Highway 16 East near Purden Lake Provincial Park approximately 64 km east of Prince George.
Barkerville Heritage Trust past president Gord Rattray presented the Barkerville Connector plan to the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George board of directors on Thursday. The plan calls for upgrading the existing, but decommissioned, Bowron River-Purden Lake Road to a two-lane, seasonal highway.
“Barkerville is a unique heritage attraction. [But] one of the challenges that was identified early on… is it lies on the end of a 100-km cul de sac. We know full well that reduces the number of people on site,” Rattray said. “We’re seeing a change in demographics. We’re going to be seeing more people buying motor homes and travelling… and we want to take advantage of that.”
In the past, Barkerville attracted up to 100,000 people per year. However, in recent years those numbers have declined to 60,000 to 70,000. The Barkerville Connector is predicted to boost visitors to the town by over five per cent.
Upgrading Bowron River/Purden Lake Road to a seasonal two-lane highway would cost approximately $15 million, Rattray said. Approximately 15 km of road would need, “substantial upgrades,” he added.
“We believe it will be a regional asset,” Rattray said. “We think there are opportunities to access the funding from the federal and provincial government pine beetle money. We believe its very timely we do it now.”
The objective is to create a circle tour route for tourists to explore the area, he said.
Bowron River/Purden Lake was one of three options looked at by a consultant hired by the trust, he said.
The Goat River Road option would connect to Highway 16 at West Twin Park between Crescent Spur and McBride. However, the cost was an estimated $434.8 million.
Expansion of the current Matthew River Road would only cost approximately $10 million, but heads south to connect with 150 Mile House east of Williams Lake rather than connecting to Highway 16.
Regional district directors were divided on the issue, and voted to delay making a decision to support the project until their Nov. 15 meeting.
“Right from the outset the trust board saw a role to promote regional tourism. The more options we can provide, the more attractive it will be,” director Murry Krause said.
Krause is a member of the Barkerville Heritage Trust board and sits on the regional district board as a Prince George city councillor.
“Why question the impact on communities? What’s the downside in creating another route?” director Mike Frazier said. Frazier is the mayor of McBride.
However, director and Prince George city councillor Don Bassermann was concerned that the route, in effect, would allow travellers to bypass Prince George.
“I have a concern that the report does not examine in any detail the impact… on Prince George,” Bassermann said.
“I appreciate the intent of the proposal. We’re trying to think regionally here.”
However a, “little more homework,” is needed before he could support it, he said.
“I think we need to see some more information,” director and Prince George city councillor Don Zurowski said. “We have to put some thought into this, or we might do more harm than good to regional tourism.”
Public consultations were held in Wells and McBride and further consultations are planned.
Comments can be made until Nov. 9 via Kevin Brown Communications by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 250-613-9369.