Ministry passes the buck

Questions continue to arise over what the Ministry of Transportation actually does

Questions continue to arise over what the Ministry of Transportation actually does.

Apparently the department is responsible for ignoring public demands for a traffic light at a dangerous intersection, and its mandate also includes creating anxiety among residents about roads through provincial parks until finally reversing course.

And now, we are learning that the ministry doesn’t pull weeds or cut grass.

“I’ve had some conversation with ministry people and the information I’ve heard is the ministry doesn’t do esthetics,” said Bob Fleming, Regional District of North Okanagan director.

Now Fleming is specifically speaking of the situation at the Kalamalka Lake Lookout, gateway to the North Okanagan and often the first impression many tourists have of our region.

Last fall, the Ministry of Transportation spent $58,000 to upgrade the site, including two outhouses, six picnic tables, garbage bins, fencing, trees and a grassy area.

Since then, grass has turned brown and weeds have flourished. Vandals have had a field-day with the facilities.

The situation is a complete mess and yet the ministry refuses to do anything.

“They will take care of graffiti and  service the washrooms. But in terms of landscaping, they have no interest,” said Fleming.

And if that’s the case, the response is shocking since taxpayers’ dollars were invested in the site.

If there was no intention of maintaining the landscaping, why was the project initiated except to provide government officials with a photo-op and positive headlines? They had to know that the grass and trees wouldn’t last very long in the hot, blazing sun and that weeds would spread like wildfire if left unchecked.

This spring as complaints about the lookout arose, the ministry insisted it, “will continue to work with the contractor to manage the natural vegetation in the area, and will determine by later this summer whether an additional seeding of the area is required.”

But that doesn’t appear to be the case, according to Fleming, who, along with his RDNO counterparts, is demanding a meeting with the ministry.

“We want them to confirm what they will do and what they won’t do,” he said.

Coldstream is so frustrated with the situation at the lookout at the municipality is investigating what it would cost to take over maintenance at the site.

Obviously, Coldstream’s intervention would take care of the problem and ensure a hands-on approach. But this would be a case of downloading and Coldstream taxpayers being directly responsible for something that’s provincial.

On top of this, a local jurisdiction taking over the lookout could establish a dangerous, and costly, precedent.

With the lookout handed over, the Ministry of Transportation may look to others to take on so-called esthetic initiatives, such as weeds taking over shoulders and expanding on to roads in the electoral areas.

“The weeds are four feet high and people are driving by and it’s whack, whack, whack,” said Fleming recently of safety issues.

Currently, RDNO’s electoral areas don’t have funding for weed control along roads, which are a ministry mandate in unincorporated communities. However, if the ministry refuses to take action, the electoral areas may be forced to take the service on.

The response of Coldstream and the electoral areas is natural as the condition of the lookout reflects on our region’s image. But instead of picking up the slack,  our local politicians need to tell the ministry to do its job and stop passing the buck.