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

Cookies and kindness delivered to Maple Ridge seniors in isolation

An Albion boy with autism uses his artistic skills to bring smiles to those in a local care home

Pet owners encouraged to be proactive in caring for their animals

Maple Ridge SPCA shelter is closed to the public, but adoptions and fostering are still possible

LETTER: Parent, have a serious discussion with your children, please

Teens seen strolling together, up-close, and failing to abide by social distancing rules

LETTER: Maple Ridge cyclist appreciative of strangers’ kindness

Thanks to the nurse and others who came to injured biker’s aid

LETTER: Please use common sense in dealing with COVID

Aspiring artists wants people to follow the rules to help keep everyone safe

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Insurance shock for B.C. condo owners

Claim-free two-year-old townhouse complex told premium will nearly triple

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

B.C. VIEWS: Pandemic shows need for adequate care home staffing

Seniors in B.C. care homes face challenging times

Most Read