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

Schools get creative to provide food to students

Initiatives underway include providing gift cards

UPDATE: First presumptive case of COVID-19 in Prince Rupert

Doctor says it was a visitor, Northern Health won’t confirm

Schools ramp up contact efforts with students

Efforts of school district employees called “extraordinary”

North District RCMP see massive spike in domestic calls

Connection to COVID-19 pandemic likely for reduced call volume, increased severity

COVID-19 death toll reaches 50 in B.C., while daily case count steadies

B.C. records 34 new cases in the province, bringing total active confirmed cases to 462

B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Will include virtual clinics and resources for British Columbians, including front-line workers

B.C.’s COVID-19 rent supplement starts taking applications

$300 to $500 to landlords for April, May and June if eligible

Reality TV show about bodybuilders still filming in Okanagan, amid COVID-19

Five bodybuilders from across the country flew to Kelowna to move into a house for a reality TV show

B.C.’s top doctor details prescription for safe long weekend

Yes, it includes hosting an online cooking show

BC SPCA seeks help for abandoned German shepherd puppies

Donations have ‘petered out’ as doors are closed due to COVID-19

Smithers relocates downtown homeless population

Bylaw officer Matt Davey says the move was made with buy-in from the affected people

UNBC opts for virtual convocation in June, commits to face-to-face after COVID-19

Interim president Geoff Payne said feedback prompted him to commit to traditional one when possible

Most Read