New access road will provide Tseshaht with gateway to future development along highway | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

New access road will provide Tseshaht with gateway to future development along highway

Port Alberni, BC

The Tseshaht First Nation are working towards establishing new economic development opportunities by building a serviced access road on a parcel of land along the Pacific Rim Highway.

The BC NDP Government is investing up to $33 million across rural areas of the province for the second intake of the Rural Economic Diversification and Infrastructure Program (REDIP). Communities on Vancouver Island and other coastal communities will be receiving up to $12.9 million in funding for 41 approved projects from REDIP to help strengthen local economies.

The Tseshaht First Nation have received $1 million in funding for the new access road.

“This million dollars is getting us the access road, so it’s punching a short road to start future development,” said Tseshaht Chief Councillor Ken Watts. “Our hope is to really have an entire area paved out, serviced with water, sewer and power and just prepared for future development.”

The large area of land is located along the Pacific Rim Highway near the Tseshaht Market and across from the Ahtsik Native Art gallery.

Watts said future development could include light industrial, commercial and potentially market rentals. The nation plans to clear the land and build the new road in the next year or so.

“We’ve always looked at developing the highway and infrastructure dollars have always been tough for economic development…it’s not cheap to hook up water and sewer to certain areas,” Watts said. “We just went through our land use plan and it was identified as an area for economic development, so it’s always been a desire.”

Watts said there have been concerns in the past about drainage and geotechnical issues on the land, but that recent studies organized by Tseshaht have shown the land is suitable for development.

“We’ve done our homework, it’s been checked in our land use plan as an area and now we’re actually moving forward with this,” Watts said. “We will move toward subdividing into separate lots. We have had a lot of commercial interest to do stuff at the highway front and this road will help provide that opportunity to show people the possibilities of the land.”

The length and design of the new access road is still being finalized, but Watts said the funding from the province has helped to kick-start the project.

“This funding really just provides us with the tools to get it started because the biggest thing is just getting the water and sewer there,” Watts said. “With any development people need to see what the opportunity is, so once they see the road, once they see the land cleared, now they see this area has good potential for development. Right now it just looks like a forested area.”

In Mid Island-Pacific Rim, six projects are receiving more than $2.7 million in funding, including the $1 million for the Tseshaht and $100,000 for the Hornby Island Community Economic Enhancement Organization (HICEEC) to undertake workforce housing feasibility, business planning, and related activities.

“Rural, remote and Island communities have unique needs, and our economies operate differently than in urban centres,” said Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim in a press release. “These investments in our region will help people and communities to thrive with new infrastructure, resources, training and economic opportunities.”

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