Tempers flare as drivers look for alternate route out of Cultus Lake

Windstorm sends tree and power lines across main road out of Cultus Lake

Tempers flared Saturday after a downed tree blocked the main road out of Cultus Lake

Tempers flared Saturday after a downed tree blocked the main road out of Cultus Lake

A powerful windstorm brought down a large tree and some power lines near Cultus Lake on Saturday afternoon.

The fallen tree cut off traffic on Columbia Valley Highway — the main access road in and out of the Cultus Lake community.

That led to hundreds of motorists trying to take the private road through the Soowahlie reserve.

Some Soowahlie members responded by locking the gate for safety reasons, Soowahlie chief Brenda Wallace told The Progress.

It’s not the first time the Soowahlie road has been blocked to public access. A gate was installed last summer after an ongoing speeding situation raised safety concerns along the road  that has a 30 km/hr speed limit.

On Saturday a toll was erected at the gate for a couple of hours, where drivers were being asked to pay a $20 charge, which infuriated some of them.

“Things escalated quickly,” Wallace said. “Everyone was quite upset about the tolls.”

The ensuing lineup of cars, and growing number of frustrated drivers, made the situation chaotic.

Wallace got a call around 2:30 p.m. by a band council member and was told the situation was getting “out of control.”

More traffic was backing up and tempers were flaring.

“People were in panic mode and we had absolutely nothing in place to deal with that amount of traffic,” she said.

The Soowahlie leader was out of town when the storm hit on Saturday, but has been dealing with the situation ever since returning home.

An enraged caller left a racist message at her home, and there was a fury of racist comments posted on social media overnight, before the threads were taken down.

A community meeting was called the next day at the Soowahlie band office to address the toll situation, and how to handle the road access question, said Chief Wallace.

A solution is needed for when a similar situation arise in the foreseeable future.

“We decided we will keep the gate locked on weekends,” she said. “In the event of an emergency in future, the traffic will be directed through Sleepy Hollow Road.”

It turns out there are more than two ways to exit the Cultus area. But not many people are aware of this fact.

“When it comes right down to it, there are three entrances to Soowahlie and only one was locked,” said Chief Wallace.

One of the ways is by Sleepy Hollow Road, and other is the road near the Vedder Bridge.

It was also decided at the meeting that no other “tolls” will be erected, and the $2,000 collected at the gate over the weekend will be used for Soowahlie elders and children’s programs.

Plans are in the works for new signs, and flaggers to direct motorists to the Sleepy Hollow Road route in the case of an emergency, she added.

Discussions between Soowahlie, Fraser Valley Regional District and Cultus Lake Park Board officials around emergency response planning have begun, and will continue to find a permanent solution and to prevent a similar situation from ever happening again.

“The emergency plans, to direct people through Sleepy Hollow Road, weren’t in place at the time, but they are now,” Chief Wallace said. “We have a great relationship with FVRD and Cultus Lake park board, and we are working with everyone on permanent solutions.”

Taryn Dixon, FVRD electoral area H director, called the situation “unfortunate” and said the goal was to move forward on the emergency planning.

“We’re going to use what happened as a learning tool.”

What has emerged is that very few people are aware that the alternate route is by Sleepy Hollow Road.

“We need flag people and detour signs. We want to make it clear what the best way is to move people in and out of the community,” added Dixon.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno

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

Just Posted

Two people on a paddleboard take advantage of a calm Cultus Lake on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Forecast calls for lots of sun in Fraser Valley this coming week

Most of next seven days will be sunny for eastern Fraser Valley, according to Environment Canada

A total of $7,230.85 was raised for Chilliwack Community Services as a result of The Home Depot Canada Foundation’s Orange Door Project in December 2020. (HomeDepot.ca)
Thousands raised from Orange Door Project to help homeless youth in Chilliwack

Home Depot Canada Foundation hands over more than $7,000 to Chilliwack Community Services

RCMP Emergency Response Team members on Charles Street in Chilliwack on Jan. 15, 2021 after an undisclosed threat was made by a male. The matter was resolved peacefully. (Darcy Loewen photo)
Heavy Chilliwack RCMP presence on Charles Street Friday after ‘disturbing’ phone call

Man who made threats to harm self and others eventually taken into custody unharmed

Two people were in a vehicle that rolled over on Highway No. 1 near Lickman Road. They are now out of the vehicle. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vehicle rolls over on Highway 1 near Lickman Road in Chilliwack

Two people in SUV at time of collision in westbound lanes

Both eastbound lanes are completely west of exit 135 on Highway 1. (Google maps)
UPDATE: Traffic now getting through following car collision on Highway 1 in Chilliwack

Incident happened shortly just west of exit 135 for Agassiz/Harrison Hot Springs

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Photo by Kevin Hill)
40 cases linked to Surrey Memorial Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

Fraser Health says two death are associated with the outbreak

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Most Read