On June 24, the announcement of a project that allocates $500,000 to 100 Mile House for the purpose of fostering active transportation was announced by the B.C. government.
This initiative is the result of work done, in part, by special advisor to the Minister of Transportation on active transportation MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert of Vancouver West End.
“We’ve launched what we’re now calling the Active Transportation Grant, which is a program of the provincial government partnered with local governments like 100 Mile to support making getting around via biking, walking, rolling, cross country skiing or snowshoeing safer and more accessible,” Herbert said. “We know there is a huge hunger for people to be able to get around not just by car both because of the environmental benefits, cutting down climate change causing emissions, health benefits and its often much more affordable too.”
The Cariboo Trail sidewalk, which will run from HorseLake Road to Jens Street will be the beneficiary of the grant money, Herbert said, which will fund the installation of crosswalks at various intersections, better lighting along the corridor and other quality of life improvements. This was identified as a priority by the District of 100 Mile, Herbert said, as a way to get more people out and about safely.
Initially, Herbert said the grant was more intended for wheeled forms of active transportation, like biking or rollerblading, but they came to realize not everyone can ride a bike, so they’ve since expanded it to walking and jogging. Another change they made came after they noticed that a lot of smaller communities were getting shut out of applying for the money in favour of Vancouver based projects. This was because they either didn’t have the funds to match the government or there was just not enough left after the bigger projects took their piece. As such Herbert said they took steps to readjust the balance and ensure that smaller communities could get access to these funds.
“I think people want to be active and not have to have the car be the only answer. Some folks don’t drive, some folks don’t have a car and most folks want to fight climate change and be healthy,” Herbert said. “If we want to support that, we need to make it safe to do that and the evidence shows if you put in safe walking and cycling paths people use them. Certainly, during the time of COVID-19, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of people getting around walking, cycling and so on to get where they want to go but also for fun.”
He’s of the opinion that if the government wants people in 100 Mile House to be happy they ought to give them the same opportunity to walk or bike that they’d get in a larger centre like Vancouver. It’s an opinion he formed after doing a tour of the province and talking to local community members.
In addition to providing good transportation for locals, Herbert said that the old tourism adage should prove true that “If it’s great for the locals, it’s going to be great for the tourists.” He knows that many people live in the Cariboo for the natural beauty that surrounds them and giving people a safe way to view it will attract more people to visit and maybe set down roots.
While it may be a government partnership between the provincial government and District of 100 Mile House at the end of the day, Herbert wants to acknowledge that it’s the money of the taxpayers paying for projects like this and he’d like to thank them for supporting them.
“The Cariboo is an incredibly beautiful region that I love going camping in particular so hopefully my family will be up there in the region to check out some of the tourism hotspots in the summer in a safe way and I hope more do so as well,” Herbert said.
He said he’s looking forward to coming up to check on the trail at some point in the near future, once the Province is fully opened up.
Cariboo Trail is a residential area in need of a sidewalk that the District of 100 Mile has been looking to develop for some time. The Free Press clarified with the Ministry of Transportation who said a sidewalk is well within the scope of the project and that some of Herbert’s comments may be more applicable to the program generally than the 100 Mile project specifically.
Roy Scott, District 100 Mile House CAO, echoed that saying that while most of Herbert’s comments are more applicable to larger centres this funding is providing the catalyst the district needed to begin work on the street.
“Ours is more a connectivity and safety issue for that end of town. It’s been a longstanding issue for folks up that way,” Scott said. “We are finally in a position to address those concerns.”
Scott said at an upcoming council meeting in July the District Council will consider awarding the work to a local contractor. They’ve yet to receive any documentation from the Province as it related to this project.
They hope to have work on this project begin in the late summer to fall of this year, however, in his opinion the majority of the work will likely be completed in 2021.