Photo Credit: Credit | Destination BC

Small Businesses Brace For Upcoming Highway 4 Closures

"I still have bills to pay, all the cancellations started a big snowball effect," says Chims Guest House owner.

Tourism traffic dwindles, along with locals livelihoods

Naomi Nicholson has run Chims Guest House in Port Alberni since 2018.

The business has seen its ups and downs through the pandemic, but Nicholson’s venture had overall been paying off.

Now, however, she’s once again worried about paying the bills.

“Before the fire, we were doing pretty well, and now everything has just kind of stopped,” said Nicholson, speaking on CBC’s All Points West.

Highway 4 suffered ongoing closures during and following the Cameron Lake Bluffs Fire. After briefly reopening to traffic, it’s set for more repairs and closures starting July 17.

Crews will be scaling where the hillside was scorched, removing loose rocks above the highway.

The road must be closed due to rockfall hazards while that work takes place.

Closures will be in place 9 AM-5 PM. Monday-Friday until mid-August, with a two-hour window where traffic can pass between 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM. There will be no closures on weekends.

Outside the closure periods, Highway 4 will continue operating with single-lane-alternating traffic.

 These closures will severely limit the amount of tourism traffic travelling up the west coast.

Nicholson is expecting this to cut into her bottom line and livelihood.

“I still have bills to pay,” she said. “All the cancellations started a big snowball effect.”

Limited traffic will still be able to get through. Still, J.J. Belanger, board chair of the Tourism Industry Association of BC and owner of Crystal Cove Beach Resort in Tofino, BC, told CBC the highway closure will cost just the Tofino and Ucluelet economies $44 million and that further closures will bring more losses.

‘It’s devastating,” said Belanger.

He’s requested the available drive-through time be modified from a 2-hour window to 4 hours, but Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming said this isn’t likely to happen.

“This [the closures] is a crucial step to ensure Highway 4 can fully reopen as soon as possible,” he said. “We thank people for their patience as we work as quickly as possible to get this main corridor safely operating at full capacity again.”

Until the highway reopens, local business owners will continue to hold their breath.