Kimberley Council discusses trail building in watershed

The continuing debate on whether to allow recreation in watersheds

Kimberley Council continues to grapple with what to do with the small amount of control they have over their own watersheds.

Council received a letter from St. Mary Valley residents Cheryl and Gordon Olsen regarding their concerns with the proposed Bootleg Trails, part of which will be in the Matthew Creek watershed. They have concerns that many of the trails have been built by ‘rogue’ builders already before any memorandum of understand was written; they feel the Kimberley Trails Society has not communicated well with the public on their intentions; and that key stakeholders such as St. Mary Valley residents were not consulted at all.

The Kimberley Trails Society has applied for Resort Municipality funding to assist in building the trails.

Coun. Nigel Kitto, who is the council representative on the Kimberley Trails Society said that he agreed that the KTS could do a better job of communicating.

“The KTS management plan was started in 2013,” he said. “It is a playbook for how the Trails Society could be communicating. It was always meant to be a living document and I’ll be bringing it to the board at the next meeting. KTS came about to bring all users together. But it’s not up to KTS to see the plan (for Bootleg trails) through. That is up to Rec Sites and Trails BC.  I understand the concerns, but if this is a managed trail area, checks and balances will be in place to prevent illegal trail building. There is an MOU coming.”

“As a city we don’t have a lot of say in watersheds,” said Coun. Darryl Oakley. “I would like to know how many people are up there, industrial and otherwise.”

“I don’t think there has been any logging in Matthew Creek for eight or ten years,” said Coun. Albert Hoglund. “But these trails were put in there by a group of people; they were not sanctioned and instead of stopping them, they have been given the go ahead to build more.

“There’s not supposed to be any building until the MOU is in place but these people don’t get their fingers slapped.

“We relented in Matthew Creek because they were using an old skidder road. I was told five years ago by the trails people that they wouldn’t go into Matthew Creek. Now they are full bore ahead. I’m a firm believe that there should be no recreation in water sheds.

“Council needs to decide yes or no. I will be bringing a notice of motion forward.”

Hoglund pointed out that if drinking water is compromised there wouldn’t be any tourists to fill hotel beds.

Coun. Kent Goodwin said it was not necessarily the same group of people building the trails. He also said that his understanding always was that Council’s position on recreation in watersheds had always been Matthew Creek yes and Mark Creek no.

“The reality with the Trails Society is, most of these folks are professionals, they are a part of our community and well versed in stewardship of watersheds,” Oakley said. “Lots of watersheds use stewardship programs. We need to have a discussion about this. We are all very passionate about protecting the watersheds, just how do we go about it?”

Hoglund said that it’s true that it may not be the same people, be he still felt that the understanding was to only upgrade old roads and so on, not construct completely new trails.

“KTS does not condone illegal trail building,” Kitto said. “I hope if this does go ahead there will be more oversight.”

Recreation and logging were two very different things,” said Mayor Don McCormick.

“You won’t convince me trails are more dangerous than logging. Because we don’t have control (of logging in watersheds) we don’t have control of the consequences. We are heading down the road to a water treatment plant and that will be hugely expensive.”