A Kimberley resident has brought his concerns about access to St. Mary River to Council, stating that as a kayaker, it’s important that river access through the Kimberley Riverside Campground remains available if the sale of the campground goes through.
Bob Reid presented to Council at a regular meeting on Tuesday, November 12, 2019, alongside a room full of supporters in Council chambers.
This comes after the City of Kimberley announced their proposal to sell two recreational assets: the Kimberley Campground and Bootleg Gap Golf Course. A full list of facts on the sale is available on the City’s website on the home page under Latest News – Frequently Asked Questions – Recreational Asset Sale.
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Reid started off by saying how special the river is to many of those who recreate including kayakers, canoers and anglers alike.
“The section of river within city limits is quite special, which essentially goes from camp stone to the [Kimberley] golf course,” explained Reid. “You can get to some pretty special places with watercraft. Places that you would never otherwise see. As river access declines, we won’t even be able to hike to those places. I worry for young families who want to learn how to kayak, canoe or fish.”
He adds that he and many others are worried about the sale of the campground for that very reason.
“We use [the campground] to access the river and other play spots along the river. The campground is a fantastic place to take out when you’re using the river,” said Reid.
He adds that one of the only other options to take out is at the Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP), which he says is not ideal.
“It’s a challenge. It’s often smelly. It’s doable, but it diminishes the day. I think many people know what I mean when I say it’s less than ideal. I think, moving forward, there should be plans to turn that into a green space and keep access to the river for families,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be horrible if during this process, access to the river ended?”
Mayor Don McCormick said that he and Council are “on the exact same page” as Reid when it comes to keeping the river accessible in both areas.
Troy Pollock, Manager of Planning Services, says that access to the river from the campground will remain available during and after the sale, if not improve entirely.
“The plan is to ensure park dedication on the river, and a statutory right of way, secured, with a register on title,” said Pollock, adding that a trail will be created and access to the river through the campground will improve.
In terms of access via the land at the WWTP, CAO Scott Sommerville says the City is a long way from the building phase, and it’s important for residents to share their input.
“We’re still in the design phase, but we know that the new facility will not only improve aesthetics, but improve the health of the river as well,” said Sommerville. “The quality of effluent should be substantially better. Part of the reason why we are selling these recreational assets is to improve the treatment facility. It’s important to improve [river] access there as well.”
Councillor Darryl Oakley says that the river is just as much a part of Kimberley’s tourism branding as the trails and ski hill.
“This is perfect timing,” he said, thanking Reid. “It’s huge for Kimberley’s brand, here’s the chance to bring the water into it; to put it into the forefront.”
Councillor Sandra Roberts agreed saying, “tourism is a major income for Kimberley. If we don’t protect the river, we are going to jeopardize that.”
Reid ended the conversation by saying, “we also don’t want to see the river over crowded. But it’s a real issue, with real emotions, and something to look out for in the early stages.”