A road no one wants, what to do with St. Mary Lake Road

St. Mary Residents Association wants problem areas dealt with

At City Council’s regular meeting on Monday evening the St. Mary Valley Rural Residents Association attended to speak to the ongoing problem of maintenance of the St. Mary Lake Road.

Over ten years ago the provincial government passed responsibility for maintenance of the first 4.5 kilometres of the road to the City of Kimberley. The City has maintained since then that it was a download and that the province should be responsible. That argument has fallen on deaf ears.

In the meantime, those who live up the valley and use the road daily have been complaining about its deteriorating condition. The Association complained this summer and the City did do some patching. A speed limit of 50 kph was also posted. Residents worry that once the winter has taken its toll, the road will be back to the same poor condition it was.

The Association’s presentation to Council pointed out that the City maintains that the road was poorly constructed to begin with and would cost approximately a million dollars to bring up to an acceptable standard, and there are no taxpayers living along that section. According to the Association  13 residents of the Valley also own property in Kimberley and pay $30,000 yearly in property taxes and three own businesses which pay $17,000 annually.

“We feel our concerns are being dismissed by the City because of the fact that we are rural residents, and as the majority of us do not have a vote, therefore we don not deserve the consideration of a well maintained road.

“It is our view that if the City of Kimberley is going to continue promoting the valley as a recreation site in their tourism campaign, and if the Ministry of Transportation is not going to step up, the responsibility then falls back on the city to upgrade and maintain the road to an acceptable standard.”

The association notes that logging is beginning in the Redding Creek area which will add considerably to traffic on the road, and that traffic will be heavy equipment, which will cause more damage.

The Association recommended that 1)the City put on weight restrictions, for both fall and spring so that heavy equipment would have to use the river road; and 2) that City employees travelling daily to check the Matthew Creek water intake keep city crews apprised of road conditions.

Mayor Ron McRae said that he appreciated the recommendations and that he encouraged the Association to continue to work with the City to lobby the province on who should be responsible for the road.

“Things have changed significantly since the road was downloaded,” McRae said. “I think we have an opportunity to make a compelling case, and get other partners to the table to problem solve.”

Coun. Albert Hoglund said that in the past weight restrictions were considered but at the time the feedback was that residents wanted the heavy equipment to go out the Kimberley route rather than the river road. After a quick discussion Association members present at the meeting agreed they could put up with the traffic on the river road if it kept it off St. Mary Lake Road.

Hoglund also said that the City Operations department relied heavily on people calling in about potholes. While staff could keep them informed, residents should call in as well, he said.

Coun. Bev Middlebrook asked the Association members how they would feel about having the asphalt removed and the road being graded.

The group answered that gravel would be better than what they had presently. Part of the road is gravel already.

McRae said the City had looked into costs on that and removing the asphalt would cost about $50,000, not including gravel.

“There is a commitment on the part of the City to find a short term solution,” he said.  “But we need to find a long term resolution as well so we don’t throw good money after bad.”