Public Information Sessions

Two open houses were held as part of the second phase of consultations:

Parksville

Date: Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Time: 4 pm to 8 pm
Location: Parksville Community and Conference Centre, 132 Jensen Ave E.

Port Alberni

Date: Thursday, June 20, 2019
Time: 4 pm to 8 pm
Location: Port Alberni Friendship Centre, 3555 4th Ave.

Read the comments received at the two open houses.

Read the discussion guide for the two open houses.

Download the full PDF version of the poster boards displayed at the open houses or view below.

 

Introduction to the second phase of Cathedral Grove pedestrian and traffic safety study.

Why are we doing this study? A safety issue has existed for many years and continues to grow as traffic through Cathedral Grove increases. The objective of this study is to make recommendations for pedestrian and traffic safety improvements that could be completed in a short-term time frame.

About MacMillan Provincial Park. Cathedral Grove, located in MacMillan Provincial Park, is one of the most accessible stands of giant Douglas-fir trees on Vancouver Island. Here visitors can stroll through a network of trails under the shadow of towering ancient Douglas-fir trees, majestic pillars untouched by the modern world – some more than 800 years old.

What we heard. The first phase of the study focused on listening and understanding. The goal was to work with participants to identify potential ideas that address both safety concerns AND protection of Cathedral Grove’s inherent values. The following graphic summarizes key information collected during this first phase. Ideas: 316 suggestions to relocate or add parking to a different area. 255 suggestions to consider a highway bypass around the park. 290 suggestions for a pedestrian overpass or underpass. 138 suggestions for more trails to connect to parking and provide safe routes. 124 comments about protecting old growth trees. 114 ideas about shuttles to transport people to/from the park.

About the issues. Over the years, several safety improvements have been completed at Cathedral Grove. These have improved conditions by increasing motorist awareness and slowing vehicles. However, safety concerns still exist. Three key issue types contribute to safety concerns.

Map. About the Forest. A LiDAR analysis of tree heights was completed to begin building an understanding the size, age class, and forest composition of the broad study area. This information provides an early indication of areas that should be avoided and those that may warrant further study. Why Analyze Tree Heights? Looking at the height of the trees provides initial information about the potential locations of valuable old growth ecosystems. However, tree heights do not necessarily confirm whether or not a tree is old growth. As options are narrowed, more detailed environmental analysis, including field surveys of candidate sites, will be completed to inventory trees and review habitat value and complexity to confirm potential environmental values.

About the Environment. To continue building a comprehensive picture of the study area, an Environmental Overview Study was completed. About the Study A Qualified Environmental Professional conducted the Environmental Overview Study. This level of study provides a summary of the following: Regulatory considerations. A general description of the environmental setting. Research of provincial and federal sources to determine rare species occurrences. GIS mapping of environmental features noted in the study area Read the Environmental Overview Study online at: engage.gov.bc.ca/cathedralgrove.

Preliminary Improvement Options. Based on input to date and technical analysis, a number of potential options are being brought forward for further public engagement. These preliminary improvement options are being explored to assess pros and cons, identify refinements, and help focus in on those that appear to have the most merit to study further. The options are not mutually exclusive – several could be considered together to improve pedestrian and traffic safety. Options Overview The following six types of options have been developed for review and consideration: Existing Parking Area Improvements. U-Turn Routes (Outside the Park). Pedestrian Overpass. New Parking Area(s) West of Cathedral Grove. Long-Term Bypass Options. Management / Program Options Please learn more about each on the following pages and complete a feedback questionnaire to record your comments.

Existing Parking Area Improvement Options. Conceptual sketch. Early Relative Assessment: (Note: Early relative assessments are shown to support review and comparison of the ideas and options. Further detailed assessments will be conducted on options that are advanced). Lower relative cost to develop and maintain due to use of existing parking area footprint. Minimizes tree impacts by working within existing parking area footprint and careful design around old growth trees. Restricts pedestrians from crossing highway in varied locations (defined crossing must be provided). Improves traffic safety by eliminating pedestrians crossing in various locations and illegal left turns. Limited impact to watershed, habitat, or other environmental features by utilizing existing parking area footprint. Maintains close parking access for visitors with limited mobility. U-turn routes (outside the park). If a centre barrier is added at the main grove parking area to allow right in/out movements only and prevent illegal turns, u-turn routes would be required to allow visitors to turn around after their visit. The map shows two general locations for potential u-turn routes. Final siting would be based on environmental assessment and detailed design. Early Relative Assessment: (Note: Early relative assessments are shown to support review and comparison of the ideas and options. Further detailed assessments will be conducted on options that are advanced). Moderate relative cost to build and maintain Potential tree impacts minimized through siting and design that avoids existing large trees. Improves pedestrian safety by streamlining vehicle movements at the main grove. Improves traffic safety by providing safe u-turn routes, reducing illegal movements. Reduces impacts to watershed, habitat, or other environmental features through siting and design. Limited accessibility benefits. Improves traffic mobility by reducing illegal manoeuvres at the main grove and providing safe pull-off locations for slow-moving traffic.

Pedestrian overpass. A pedestrian overpass is being considered to allow safe, separated pedestrian access across Highway 4. An overpass could be designed in several different ways. Three example ideas are shown below. Example A: Forest Walk Overpass Example. Access ramps travel between trees slopping up slowly to the overpass. Example B: Parallel Ramp Overpass. Parallel access ramps travel directly up to the overpass. Example C: Spiral Overpass. Access ramps spiral around sloping up slowly to the overpass.

New parking area west of Cathedral Grove. Seven sites with potential merit for new parking were identified based on: the Environmental Overview Study, tree height analysis, terrain analysis, identification of previous disturbances (e.g., forestry roads, utility corridors, tree loss due to windthrow or previous forestry activities), public input, and preliminary site visits. Once key sites are selected for further analysis, the next step would be a detailed assessment of environmental, cultural, and physical characteristics to determine site suitability and to inform design.

An approach to parking. Some of the options being considered include expansion or development of new parking. Many participants suggested that parking should be sensitive to its context by avoiding removal of old growth trees, selecting previously disturbed sites, and designing parking in and around the environment, rather than as a single large lot. Some preliminary ideas that could be used for parking approaches are outlined below.

Long-term bypass options. During Round 1 engagement participants suggested a bypass could reduce traffic traveling through Cathedral Grove. The scale, complexity, and cost would not allow implementation of a bypass in the short-term. However, options that may have potential merit as long-term projects are identified here. Southeast bypass summary: Public input suggested a two-lane Highway 4 bypass to the southeast of the Cathedral Grove area. Park access would be maintained on the existing Highway 4. The three routes identified were selected to avoid significantly steep terrain; however, all options would require significant land clearing. Horne Lake Connector Summary: Over the years, several potential routes have been studied for a Horne Lake Connector between Hwy 19 and Hwy 4. All options begin at the Horne Lake intersection on Hwy 19 and end east of Port Alberni. All the options are in mountainous terrain with challenging grades. The routes range in length from 18 km to 28 km. While the Horne Lake Connector would provide a shorter route between Port Alberni and the Comox Valley and an alternate route should Highway 4 be closed, only about 10% - 20% of Highway 4 traffic would be diverted. Pedestrian and traffic safety at Cathedral Grove would remain largely unchanged.

Management/Program options. Shuttle Options: A shuttle between populated areas and Cathedral Grove would provide an alternative to personal vehicle use. Most often these services are provided through private operators or are sponsored through not-for-profit organizations. A key to success of these operations is sufficient demand and funding to offset service costs. Additional Signage: Placement of additional signs can help raise awareness of both motorists and pedestrians using the park. Traffic Calming: Rumble strips provide an audible and tactile indication of speed reductions. Narrowed traffic lanes using paint or barrier additions can help slow traffic. Speed limit changes can further regulate speeds. Enforcement: Working with local enforcement to identify and plan programs that increase presence at the park during certain times can help encourage responsible driving and visitor behaviors. Car pooling: As part of an educational strategy, BC Parks can post information about parking limitations at Cathedral Grove and encourage visitors to share rides or choose alternative modes as they become available. Education: Information can be been posted in the park and on BC Parks website to inform potential visitors about peak times and encourage off-peak visits. Technology, such as real-time webcams, can allow people to see current parking conditions when preparing to visit. Social media campaigns can be used during key times to raise awareness, prepare visitors, and encourage people to care for a sensitive area.

Summary of early relative assessments. The following table summarizes the Early Relative Assessments of each of the options studied during this phase. They are compiled here to allow review and comparison of the options. For more details on each assessment refer to the previous displays or the discussion guide. It is important to note that the options are not mutually exclusive – many work well together and could be considered as part of a package of feasible recommendations for improving pedestrian and traffic safety at Cathedral Grove.

Your feedback and next steps. Cathedral Grove is a valued place. We would like to hear your thoughts on the emerging options being considered. This input will be used to refine and evaluate safety improvement options and identify those to investigate further. Please take a few minutes to record your thoughts. Announcements about next steps in the process and opportunities to continue to be involved in Fall 2019.