I’ve got a job that should be top priority for our new Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.
No, it’s not making the ferries part of the highway system (although after reading what I say later, BC Ferries might not want to be part of the highway system).
Nor is it scrapping tolls on bridges, although, that is a relief to the pocket book.
No, our very own Claire Trevena, North Island MLA and new Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, should do something about the disgusting state of our rest areas on the province’s highways.
Yes, rest areas. I’m just back from a driving holiday that took us to the Waterton and Jasper national parks, taking advantage of the free pass given out to mark Canada’s 150th birthday. I love our national and provincial parks and could think of no better way to celebrate our 150th national birthday than taking in the glory of our national park system. The free pass is much appreciated but wasn’t entirely necessary because I happily pay to use our park systems (as long as the money is being used for the parks and not general revenue).
But driving across B.C. and stopping to take a whizz or eat lunch at our provincial rest areas was outright embarrassing. They were decrepit, messy, and disgusting. The bathrooms in many of them were little more than outhouses and poorly maintained or even cleaned.
Now, I’m not finicky about doing my business in the outdoors but these weren’t isolated forest recreation sites where an outhouse is appreciated and a bare bones facility is all that is needed to keep the natural areas clean.
No, these were our provincial highways, traversed by thousands of tourists, many of them from out of province and out of the country. I cringe to think what some of them thought of our publicly-maintained highway rest areas.
If you go to the States and drive their highways, rest areas are beautiful. They’re clean, they offer flush toilets, some have coffee and many of them have on-site hosts. Now, I know that most of the time when I’m travelling in the U.S. I’m on federally-maintained Interstate highways, so I’m not necessarily asking for a million-dollar rest area.
But is it too much to have flush toilets on the main routes? Heck, I’d settle for clean toilets that weren’t dirty and cracked and discoloured. How about emptying some of them a little more often? Phew, the smell!
Again, I can make like the bear and do my business in the woods with the best of them but this isn’t the woods and men have it easy when it comes to doing their business after drinking coffee for a couple hundred kilometres. But the women in my life are forced to deal with terrible facilities.
These rest stops are a showcase for our province. We spend millions attracting tourists to our great land and I know they are awed by this spectacular place we call home. But some of those rest stops might send them back to their homes holding their noses.
Alistair Taylor is editor of the Campbell River Mirror.