Wilmer area. Photo by Pat Morrow

Dear Editor:

Passionate arguments for and against the Barbour Rock trail system proposed by the Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance (CVGTA) have captured the publics interest lately.

One part of the conversation that warrants more attention is the lack of a recreation access management plan in the Upper Columbia Valley the only region in the E. Kootenay that does not have one. And its painfully clear that due to our proximity to Calgary, we are more susceptible to overuse.

Recent survey results gathered by the Columbia Valley Community Foundation reinforce the belief that the majority of valley residents would favour a plan to prioritize land health, water security and the right of all user groups to enjoy well-cared-for public lands responsibly. In support of this, the 2016 Vital Signs report indicates that 91 per cent of permanent residents believe the natural environment contributes to attracting and retaining residents.

Fortunately, efforts to bring us up to speed with the rest of the region have begun. Clara Reinhardt, mayor of Radium Hot Springs, and Gerry Wilkie, RDEK director for Area G, organized open meetings last year to address the issues around recreation access management in the Columbia Valley.

Public participation is critical at this point posting anonymous jeers in the media is not enough.

Please consider sending a representative from your group to the next meeting when it is announced. Through this collaborative process we can come up with a plan that will help sustain our agricultural qualities, fish and wildlife resources, and unique ecological values at the headwaters of the Columbia River.

If we want our voices to be heard in Victoria, its imperative that the CVGTA, (which, by the way, has in mind a constellation of other trails to be built in critical low and high elevation wildlife corridors on both sides of the Trench), mechanized and non-mechanized user groups (that also have plans for increased trail/road access), ranchers, acreage owners, Municipal District representatives, land trusts and citizens who value the integrity of our environment come together to craft a collective narrative.

This initiative will help our environmentally-challenged provincial government develop a disturbance footprint plan for the vulnerable public and private lands of this region, already fragmented by hundreds of kilometres of logging, mining and other resource access roads, and degraded by off-road vehicles.

If we proceed with a piecemeal process on every new development proposal (i.e. not taking into account the aggregate effect of existing and future plans for growth in the surrounding region), it will lead inexorably to the proverbial death by a thousand trail cuts of habitat for humans, flora and fauna in our over-allocated land base.

Pat Morrow