VANCOUVER - British Columbia's Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is considering options for improving safety and capacity in a popular provincial park on Vancouver Island.

The ministry announced Thursday that it has begun engineering design work on improvements to MacMillan Provincial Park, also known as "Cathedral Grove."

According to the ministry, the work will "explore options" for achieving the following goals:

  • Adding capacity to the existing parking lots along Highway 4 in the park
  • Adding centre median barriers and roadside barriers to prevent "unsafe vehicle movements along and across the highway"
  • Constructing a pedestrian overpass near the parking lot to create a safe crossing of the highway
  • Expanding the trail network to allow visitors to walk safely from their vehicles to the grove
  • And constructing U-turn facilities on both sides of Cathedral Grove to enable drivers to safely turn around after visiting

These goals emerged from a public engagement process, during which the ministry received more than 1,500 responses from park users, area residents and environmental groups, both online and in person.

"One of the most frequent comments during the engagement period was the need to balance pedestrian/vehicle safety with the protection of rare old-growth trees," the ministry said in a news release. "This balance will be considered as engineering work gets underway. No old-growth trees will be removed to accommodate the proposed improvements."

Roughly 500,000 people visit MacMillan Provincial Park each year, the ministry said, with most of them visiting the old-growth forest in Cathedral Grove.

Once engineering work on the improvements to the park is completed, the ministry will present "preferred options" to the public.