To improve connections to its traditional territory, the Uchucklesaht Tribe plans to introduce more regular trips to Ethlateese this year.
Using the First Nation’s Ehthlatese I vessel that is normally docked at Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay, the Uchucklesaht aim to have three weekly trips to the remote village this year, according to the Island Coast Economic Trust. This month ICET and the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance announced $20,000 in funding for the First Nation, which will cover a portion of the shuttle service to the village located in Uchucklesaht Inlet, near Barkley Sound. This funding is provided by B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“The project will provide the first efficient, reliable and timely method to travel to the territory while increasing overall quality of life for citizens, both in the territory and in the Port Alberni area,” stated ICET in a press release.
Approximately two dozen people live in Ethlateese, where the Uchucklesaht Tribe has built 14 new homes after removing all the pre-existing housing in 2019. A year ago the First Nation received a $174,475 provincial grant to build a 25 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system, which is designed to lessen the village’s dependence on diesel fuel for electricity.
David McCormick, Uchucklesaht’s economic development manager, says the regular shuttle service will improve access to the territory while helping Ethlateese residents travel to Port Alberni for errands and appointments.
“The funding will go a long way to enabling us to operate this service on a regular basis through this spring, summer and fall and look to, hopefully, be able to source funds for a potential expansion after that,” he wrote in an email to Ha-Shilth-Sa.
The Uchucklesaht are among several of the latest recipients of the $230,000 Community Passenger Transportation Fund. This provincial funding is being dispersed by ICET and the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance to 13 projects in 2024, based on engagement sessions with 96 local governments, First Nations and organizations.
Ditidaht is another Nuu-chah-nulth nation approved for funding, with $19,500 awarded for bus trips from its Nitinaht Lake village to Port Alberni every other week. With the Nitinaht store currently closed, this service is intended to help residents access things like grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments and medication pick ups, according to ICET. The bi-weekly bus trips are intended to run this winter, although the service has yet to be finalized by the First Nation.
In Clayoquot Sound, the District of Tofino was granted $10,000 to increase its free bus service in the summer. The district has operated this service in recent years, and from June 24-Sept. 2 trips will become more frequent. The service operates between Tofino, Esowista, Ty-histanis and a new stop at Long Beach.
“It’s for tourists to be able to travel around in Tofino a little bit more sustainably with getting vehicles off the road, but it’s also for community members to be able to travel freely for those that don’t have a car,” said Todd Staley, the District of Tofino’s project manager for community services.
Last year Tofino introduced new parking restrictions in the downtown area over the summer tourist season, as residents of the town as well as those living in Tla-o-qui-aht, Ahousaht and Hesquiaht communities have had difficulty finding places to leave their vehicles.
The bus also offers a safer transportation option outside of the town for those who don’t have a car, said Staley.
“There still is a lot of hitchhiking on the side of the road there, so this is a safe alternative for them to be able to get into Tofino,” he said.