by EVAN MATTHEWS
The Village of Valemount is currently researching ways to provide better access and better maintain Hillside Drive.
Hillside Drive — better known as 5 Mile Road by locals — leads up to the Valemount Bike Park, and has a few adjacent properties at the base of the road, as it connects to Whiskey Fill Road.
A report from the Village’s Superintendent of Public Works and Chief Administrative Officer says the Village should reconsider the accessibility and maintenance of the road based upon a request letter from a resident on Hillside Drive, as well as concerns raised by the Valemount Volunteer Fire Department after a medical emergency over the Bikes and Beer fest weekend.
Safety concerns and accessibility
On Saturday, Jun. 17 — the same day as the bike park BBQ during vALEmount Craft Beer Experience — the bike trails saw over 200 users on the park’s grounds. Parked cars lined the road on both sides.
When a young girl fell off her bike and hit her head, and the fire department and paramedics had significant issues navigating up 5 Mile Road due to the bottleneck created by bike park users’ vehicles, according to a Village report.
“The popularity of this facility has come as a bit of a surprise to everyone,” said VARDA General Manager Curtis Pawliuk.
VARDA did not provide comment when specifically asked about medical personnel on-staff at the bike park, or if staffing medical personnel was something VARDA would consider, nor did VARDA comment on procedures in the event of an injury.
“The Beer and Bike Fest event was so successful, but it also brought forth some minor growing pains that are part of any new and successful outdoor adventure initiative,” Pawliuk told the Goat in a statement.
“One could not argue the economic, social and health benefits that this trail system is bringing to the community,” he says.
But over the Canada Day long weekend, another young boy had a fall, injuring his shoulder. The Goat has received other reports of serious injuries at the bike park, including broken bokes and one woman who broke her neck.
But as of now, there are no immediate plans to change the way medical procedures at the park operate.
“The Valemount Bike Park has been an amazing success and benefit to the community,” says Pawliuk, noting there are still some kinks to be worked out as the park progresses.
“We will continue to learn from experiences and work to make Valemount an awesome place to live and recreate,” he says.
But safety isn’t the only issue pertaining to Hillside Drive.
Nigel Hooke lives at one of the properties adjacent to 5 Mile Road, having lived in Valemount for the past 18 years.
In a letter to Council, Hooke says he’s consulted with various government departments, and has found the road is actually maintained by the Provincial Ministry of Highways and/or Forestry, however the road is more recently being used under a permit via the Valemount Community Forest.
Hillside Road provides the only access to the area Hooke and his neighbours live in, the Valemount Water Plant, the Bike Park, and access to Valemount Community Forest holdings up the mountain, he says.
With rapid growth in popularity, Hooke believes the bike park should help Hillside Road meet the specifications required for “public access road” status.
“It has been suggested (to me) the most expedient way to facilitate this, is for the Village to accept responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of Hillside Drive,” says Hooke in his letter to Council.
“In discussion with the forestry and highway ministries, this process should not create any financial burden to the Village, as it is already doing the road maintenance,” the letter goes on.
At its Jun. 27 meeting, Council received an administrative report on 5 Mile Road access and safety, and voted to put the matter back to staff for further research.