Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jenson went missing in Sooke on Friday night. (Black Press Media)

Province increases security at Sooke park after three men swept away by river

Three men killed when accessing the park due to heavy rains, flooding

In an abrupt change of course, the B.C. Environment Ministry agreed to take action to close the first parking lot gate at Sooke Potholes Provincial Park.

The move comes after questions were raised by Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks and other members of the community after it was discovered that the gate on Sooke River Road that would have restricted access to the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park had not been closed.

This flew in the face of the stated policy of the ministry is to restrict overnight access to parks.

RELATED: Questions arise about gate

“I guess that the media coverage drew their attention to the issue and I got a call from the premier about it today at 9:30 a.m.,” Hicks said.

“I asked for a call from the deputy minister and we exchanged information about the situation, looking for a solution.”

A week ago, Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and Anthony (A.J.) Jensen, all 20, died when, on Jan. 31 sometime after 11 p.m., their pickup truck was engulfed in water during unprecedented flooding near the lower parking lot of the Sooke Potholes.

They were only able to access that point by virtue of the gate having been left ajar, a situation that had apparently been true for several years as attested to by the growth of bushes over the gate in question.

RELATED: Story slow to emerge

“I was in contact with the Ministry and gave them information on the contractor that closes the CRD gate, on the same road on the other side of the park, and they have now hired our contractor, Shadow West Security, to man their gate as well,” said Hicks.

In a strange twist to the story, however, the ministry had also discovered that the gate was not located inside the park boundary, but rather was located on municipal land.

“Nobody knew that. It was always assumed that the gate was inside the park and I think even the ministry was surprised that it was not,” said Sooke Mayor Maja Tait.

When contacted by the ministry, Tait was quick to sign a letter granting the jurisdiction of the gate to the Ministry of Environment.

“We’re just really grateful to Mike Hicks for doing all the heavy lifting on this issue. He’s really the one that made this happen,” Tait said.

Prior to today, the Ministry of Environment had responded to questions about whether they would be reviewing their policies on ensuring that the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park was closed, particularly during hazardous conditions, by stating that they were waiting on the outcome of the B.C. Coroners report.

In a written statement they said:

“The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating and we await their report. Should any recommendations call on the provincial government to make changes in policy and approach, we will do everything possible to prevent this from ever happening again.”

That response resulted in an outcry from the community, with many people commenting on social media that immediate action was required.

“I’m very happy that we’ve been able to make this happen,” Hicks said.

“It goes to show you what we can accomplish when we work together to address a problem.”



tim.collins@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Sooke

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Deaths on popular Shuswap trail ruled accidental

B.C. Coroners Service reports on fatal falls in May and July 2019

Update: Highway 1 between Salmon Arm and Sicamous partially reopens

Westbound traffic delayed as crews recover a vehicle

Potholes plentiful in Salmon Arm’s industrial park

City says patching effort underway, residents can report potholes on city’s website

Shuswap housing too expensive? Neighbourhood crime a concern? Input wanted

Survey asks CSRD residents to weigh in on the affordability and availability of housing in the area.

The price of poverty: Schools, community notice more people in Salmon Arm struggling

Although number of children in poverty in city has decreased slightly, still more than 600

UPDATE: Protesters say they will maintain blockade near Chase “as long as it takes”

Goal is to see RCMP removed from Wet’suwet’en territory

Petition seeks to remove local police department from Lindsay Buziak murder case

American woman starts online petition in hopes of helping Buziak family

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

‘Chain reaction pile up’ closes southbound traffic on Coquihalla Highway

Black Press Media has reached out to RCMP, paramedics for details

Federal minister to speak in North Okanagan

Greater Vernon Chamber welcomes middle class prosperity minister to talk money

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

EDITORIAL: Thoughtless posts to Facebook cause real harm and stress

At the risk of resembling a broken record, it needs to be… Continue reading

COLUMN: Not an expert on First Nations government structures? Then maybe you should calm down

Consider your knowledge about First Nations governance structures before getting really, really mad

Most Read