By Tom Lupton, Director
My favorite part of winter is the snow. When we first moved here about 5 years ago we got snow in December, and it threatened to be a white Christmas; the first my kids would have experienced in their lives. In recent years, we got massive dumps of snow and cold which allowed people to cross-country ski on the railroad tracks and skate on portions of the lake. Snowmen dotted the streets, and the Christmas lights that Shawnigan residents so dutifully put up each season reflected in the pure white gleam of the beautiful winter snowfall.
But then the snow melted. Like most things in life, there is a duality about winter that cannot be ignored: with the beauty of the snow comes downed power lines, icy roads, car accidents and mockery from the rest of Canada about our inability to drive in poor conditions. The only good news in this tale is that the chaos is temporary, and usually within a day or two the snow is gone and life returns to normal, or should I say, Shawnigan normal.
The Shawnigan normal is that once the snow melts and life has resumed, we spend the next 6-8 months dealing with winter’s aftermath. Trying to get to Mason’s for a quick snack? Watch that pothole by the tracks. Heading to the Trestle for a walk? The shoulder may or may not be collapsed due to flooding. Those who live on the West Side of the lake must wonder if the road is even paved in large sections it’s so rough.
To be fair, the Provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTi) does try and fix things from time to time. The aforementioned pothole by Mason’s has been filled several times over the past half-decade. There are some sections of new road, which unfortunately seems to inspire people to drive even faster through the flashing lights by the school. But clearly, Shawnigan Lake is simple not a priority for the Ministry. Their budget is presumably tight and they need to spend that money where the most people will benefit from it. In other words, not here.
This is a shame because in the past several years we have lost the Ironman series, in part because of poor road conditions, we have seen countless flat tires and damaged undercarriages of cars, cyclists take their lives into their own hands if they try and navigate the crumbling roads and potholes, and drivers swerving into oncoming traffic to avoid another costly repair.
Road repairs are expensive, but we pay pretty high taxes around here, too high to have the main arteries of our transportation network exist in disrepair for such a long period of time. Another wrench in the spanners for our community to improve our road conditions is the curious classification of being a ‘rural highway’ the ministry has slapped on our roads. This severely impedes much of the progress we could make as a community. Shawnigan is growing and the number of permanent residents is growing with it. We need better service from those who collect our taxes.
The solution seems clear: incorporating would allow the community to better prioritize which areas need attention and would greater allow us to classify our roads more logically. A fruitful conversation around things like road works, sidewalks, street lights, and other issues can be had with only the local residents as a priority. Additionally, incorporation would push issues topical to Shawnigan to the very top of the agenda without being shelved because of priorities elsewhere. This issue isn’t going to fix itself under the current administration, so if we want something to be done about it, then we need to do something about it ourselves.