Youbou sits nestled on the north shore of Lake Cowichan, offering scenic views, magnificent sunsets, and recreational opportunities for hiking, boating and fishing.
What may seem like a little piece of paradise to visitors to the area is more like a nightmare to some of the Youbou residents who live there year-round because of the dust.
The Youbou dust saga has been ongoing for years. On any given day during the week at the TimberWest property — located on the lake just two miles west of the small community — logging trucks load up and make their journey through the town, spewing dust or mud or both as they drive through.
One resident has taken it upon herself to speak for the other residents, who feel that the only solution is to have a truck wash station installed so that once the trucks are loaded up, they could be washed down before they head out onto the road.
“The road is treacherous for walkers right now,” said Trish Waddington who lives just 30 feet from Youbou Road. “I myself almost slipped in the mud twice getting across the road.”
Not to mention the health issues for those residents who must breathe in the dust caused by the heavy traffic, especially during the drier summer months.
“Road dust is one source of fine particulate matter that contributes to poorer air quality, and efforts to reduce road dust production and accumulation are supportable.” said Dr. Paul Hasselback, Medical Health Officer for central Vancouver Island, in an email to the Gazette.
Waddington has taken photos, written letters to the editor, and more recently contacted CVRD Area I director Pat Weaver about the matter.
The Gazette spoke to Weaver for an update, and finally, it looks like there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. However, it is turning out to be a more complicated issue than previously thought.
“Timber West asked me what my bottom line was, and I said a truck wash,” said Weaver. “But a truck wash won’t eliminate everything, because (the logging trucks) are not the only ones using that road. And Timber West is only spearheading this for the other companies.”
Waddington says they are not trying to stop the logging business, the residents only want to be able to “breathe and live a healthy life in our vibrant community.”
Weavers says she’s hoping the problem will be resolved soon.
“Timber West has told me they are going to do something,” she confirmed, “and that it could be up and running in about six weeks, once the project is decided. It’s how we participate that is the big question now.”
Timber West have estimated a cost figure of about $100,000 to put in a truck wash. The good news, says Weaver, is that she has found some funding that may help bring the town into the project with some ownership rights.
“I thought maybe we could put together a partnership between Area I, Youbou and Meade Creeke people, to help fund this truck wash,” she explained, “because why would the tax payers have to pay for a problem that they did not create?”
Weavers says she found out that there is a fund that was donated to Area I from Woodland Shores as part of its development process. Called the Nature Habitat Fund, it is money the developer has to contribute to help the community.
That fund may be appropriately named for its ultimate use because, while the idea of a truck wash may be the solution to clean the trucks off before they pass through the community, the effect the dirty water will have on the environment brings in a whole other issue.
“There’s already mud and dirt, oil and grease coming down off the road in Youbou,” she said. “And if it goes from a truck wash down into the lake, that will not be good for the fish and wildlife habitat, and the people using the lake.
“As an area director, the highway is technically not my problem,” Weaver said, then added, “and the government tell me they have no money. It’s very frustrating.”
In the meantime, Timber West is doing what they can to quell the problem with a sweeper truck, road grader, water truck passing along the road. Around Feb. 20 Waddington sent photos in to the Gazette to show the outcome.
“As you can see very plainly this Band-Aid fix does not work,” Waddington said in her email that accompanied the photos. “ in fact the mud is worse!”