By Kelsey Verboom

Pioneer Staff

The fundraising necessary to secure the controversial Lot 48 property as parkland is three-quarters complete, after a $1 million donation by the Columbia Basin Trust.

The fate of the 315-acre property located on the eastern shores of Columbia Lake has had a giant question mark hanging over it for years. Once owned by Fairmont Hot Springs resort, the property was zoned for a planned golf course and 630-unit development proposed in 2005.

The proposed development caused public push-back from concerned residents and members of the Regional District of East Kootenay Board of Directors. In 2006, the regional district proposed two bylaws that would downgrade the zoning of the land, preventing commercial development.

The regional district has yet to give a third reading to the bylaws, which would downgrade the property to agricultural zoning the deadline to do so has been pushed back several times.

Most recently, the regional district put the fate of Lot 48 on hold until May, 2012. The purpose of the deadline extension was to give the propertys current owners, the Wilder family of Fairmont, time to reach a deal with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to buy the lot and turn it into permanent parkland.

The Nature Conservancy has been fundraising for the past year, trying to reach the $7.2 million that is required to purchase and protect the property, which is adjacent to the Columbia Lake Provincial Park and other ecological reserves. It has also been identified as having cultural and historical significance to the Ktunaxa First Nation.

Although the regional district has contributed $900,000, mostly from the Local Conservation Fund, the fundraising efforts hit a snag in October when the provincial government said they werent able contribute to the purchase.

This week, the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) announced they will contribute $1 million to the conservation of Lot 48.

CBT encourages long-term stewardship of the Basins natural assets, which is why were pleased we can provide support toward the conservation of Lot 48, said Neil Muth, CBT President and CEO.

The purchase will help preserve not only the ecological and cultural values of Lot 48 itself, but also of the entire east side of Columbia Lake.

The $1 million boost has taken the Nature Conservancy three-quarters of the way to the $7.2 million mark, which they hope to reach this summer, said Lesley Neilson of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The regional district will revisit the zoning of Lot 48 in May.