This past week it was reported locally here on Salt Spring Island that a petition was sent to the B.C. Legislature seeking to return our private portion of Beddis Road road to the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI). The petitioners want this section of road to be maintained at “highway standards” which means removal of the speed humps, and the speed limit signage, as well as perhaps some trees and hedgerows. This would make it a faster more urban-looking road, contrary to the heritage status of Beddis Road. Last week the petition was not accepted by the legislature because “it was out of order” and contained “many errors”. But we have a different vision for Beddis Road and several other secondary rural roads on Salt Spring Island (e.g. Cusheon Lake Road – also a heritage road).
We have posted an informal survey at our farmstand at 900 Beddis Road to gauge the amount of community support for slower and more democratic heritage roads on Salt Spring – roads managed such that walkers, bicyclists, horseback riders and cars all have equal rights of access, enjoyment and safety. For 24 years we have maintained the section of Beddis Road that passes through Laughing Apple Farm to show to the community our vision of what a heritage road should be. We hope our efforts to slow our section of road will be inspiring to other neighborhoods and will initiate a thoughtful discussion in the community about the character of our heritage roads.
Ultimately, with sufficient community support, we would like to petition MOTI to allow privately-funded speed humps or other traffic slowing measures on several other sections of Salt Spring Island heritage roads (e.g Cusheon Lake Road).
What are we asking in this survey?
By way of starting the discussion, we are asking you sign our informal survey if you can answer “yes” to all or most of the following questions:
- Do you support Laughing Apple Farm’s efforts to reduce the speed of cars on their stretch of Beddis Road?
- Do you believe that slower automobile speeds on this section of road are beneficial to the community?
- Do you feel portions of other Salt Spring secondary roads might benefit from slowing down traffic?
MOTI has certain standards for small rural roads that are sometimes at odds with the enjoyment of walking, biking, or horseback riding on these roads. There may be times when the people who live along the road come together and decide that the value in their road is in its natural beauty and the variety of birds and animals present, and there is less value in a wider and higher-speed road.
Background on this issue
We have owned Laughing Apple Farm since 1997. We farm on both sides of the road and we have to cross the road with tractors and other farm vehicles. The farm is 166 acres, was homesteaded in the 1880s, and has never been subdivided. We pay taxes on the full property including the land underlying the road surface. About six years ago we installed signs requesting people to drive 30 km/hr through our farm. The traffic did not slow down.
So, four years ago we installed speed humps. We can now safely cross the road at our driveway with farm vehicles. We maintain the road such that the sides of the road are green and some trees stretch out to provide a cool canopy for summer walks in the shade. We often see people walking or bicycling because now it is a quieter slower road thanks to the speed humps. Our vision is for a slower heritage road:
- We believe that walkers, bicyclists, horseback riders should have equal rights to vehicles in using these roads.
- We believe that hedgerows, trees and animal habitat along the road are a positive value for the enjoyment of the roads.
- We believe that slowing traffic also allows animals to safely navigate human roads.
- We support the use of speed humps or other traffic-slowing installations to slow traffic including signage indicating that a section of road has a special status.
- We believe the speed humps should be funded privately so that scarce road maintenance funds are not used.
Obviously, there are some people who dislike our speed humps and prefer faster traffic on Beddis Road. These people are demanding the speed humps be removed by claiming our section of the road is public. But this is not true – it is private.
Why is the Laughing Apple Farm section of Beddis Road a Private road?
- We have had discussions with the Ministry of Transportation and there is agreement that our portion of Beddis Road is private property.
- We have maintained this section of the road as a private road for 24 years just as did the previous owners.
- We claim Section 42 of the Transportation Act (regarding expenditure of public funds on a road) does not deem our section of the road a public road for the following reasons:
While we appreciate that MOTI may have documentation that chip sealing was undertaken about 10 years ago, this was done in the face of our objections and behind our backs.
It is clear from case law that an expenditure on a road must be more than trifling. Our portion of Beddis Road was created by the previous owners and has existed as an access route for the resident farm owners in our area, for over 100 years. Historically, informal agreements governed its usage. The chip sealing did not constitute a substantive expense in either maintaining or upgrading this section of Beddis Road such that it would meet the Section 42 criteria.
Recent case law suggests that intention plays a part in the analysis of the application of Section 42. We continue to exhibit our intention to maintain this road as a private road by signing the road, setting a modest speed limit, and continuing, as did the previous owner, to incur costs removing fallen trees and branches, mowing the shoulders, picking up litter, and maintaining the road surface.
Visit the Laughing Apple Farm at 900 Beddis Road to participate in the survey.