"Sasquatch Highway may be as elusive as its namesake"
By Robert Freeman
Some are already calling a plan to upgrade a logging road that twists its way up the west side of Harrison Lake the Sasquatch Highway. The forest service road continues up the Lillooet River valley and links up with Highway 99 in Pemberton, opening a circle route that some see bringing tourism and other economic benefits to the area.
"It's an exciting idea," agrees Harrison Hot Springs Mayor Gord Crane, but not one he hasn't been heard before and one which always goes on the back burner. But Chilliwack-area MLAs John Les and Barry Penner are actively talking up the idea with B.C. Highways Minister Judith Reid, and other MLAs in the area.
"It's very much at the embryonic stage," Mr. Les says, but in the next year or two he hopes to see the B.C. Government start talks with the private sector about a road-building partnership.
He says a meeting this week with the minister went quite well, but we're far away from this getting ministerial blessing because of the tangle of issues like treaty and forest tenure that must first be sorted out. However, he adds, "whoever I talk to finds the idea extremely interesting and they readily recognize the tremendous tourism potential that would flow from having that area accessible."
Ski resorts like Whistle and future ones around Cayoosh Creek would be opened up, along with other remote areas of the B.C. Interior, he says. And if the B.C. Olympics goes ahead in 2010, he agrees, the Sea-to-Sky Highway up the coast will then be at or near capacity, and the road up Harrison Lake would offer an alternate route to the area and improve highway safety.
"I don't mind using the Olympics as a spring board for this thing, if that's the way it works," Mr. Les says. A toll road built by the private sector in a partnership with the provincial government is one possibility, given the economic state of the province, he says.
"We¹re going to have to be creative," he says. "Some people assume automatically that we¹re going to dig into the government¹s jeans for the project, but we don¹t have a lot of money in that pocket."
Mr. Penner says upgrading the road to highway status is probably more a long-term goal, but in the meantime the existing forest service road could be upgraded to make it more accessible. It now takes about a day to drive the roughly 150-kilometre distance from Agassiz to Pemberton.
While he says it is too early to even guess at the cost, he believes it would be cheaper per mile to build than the Sea-to-Sky route up the coast. "When you drive that (logging) road, it doesn't look as rugged as the Sea-to-Sky corridor," he says. "If it's not as rugged, it might be cheaper per mile to build."
Mayor Crane says the project, if it ever goes ahead, would have obvious tourism benefits for Harrison as long as the road design does not bring additional traffic directly into the town.
"I think it¹s
quite an exciting thing, if it ever happens, which I don't think is likely," he says. Pemberton Mayor Eleanor Warner could not be reached for comment.
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