Clara Reinhardt – Radium’s mayor, who is one of three members of the Columbia Valley Recreation Access Management Plan (CVRAMP) subcommittee – is “cautiously optimistic” that everyone who enjoys using the outdoors can get along and create a plan to divide and share access to the outside.
“The trails that are used for dirt bikers aren’t the same as the trails that should be used for mountain bikers and certainly not the trails that anyone wants to hike on after. Let’s start with that,” she said.
There are many groups to accommodate from the local First Nations, to ranches with grazing rights, to trappers with rights to traplines, to outfitters, environmental organizations and others, she said, adding that stakeholders may have conflicting objectives.
Those conflicts put the CVRAMP efforts on hold in the past, but Mayor Reinhardt is hoping for a better outcome this time around.
While initial work on the CVRAMP began around 2002, she said there are “all kinds of reasons it’s taking so long.”
The main issue was tension between the stakeholder groups, which was so blatant that it led to the provincial government withdrawing its support.
“It was during the really hot time for Jumbo and so people were really on edge. People were kind of drawing their lines and so it wasn’t the right time to talk about working together, I think maybe, but it was a hard time. And once we started on the path and failed, the government of the day was pretty clear that they weren’t going to go down that road again,” she said.
“We had facilitators and consultants (who) couldn’t come to agreement, couldn’t even come to agreement on a process, and so the funders weren’t going to continue on into perpetuity on a track that people were leaving the table.”
As tensions flared, Mayor Reinhardt, who was a councillor at the time, recalled two other council members saying there was no point continuing with the work.
“Their fear was that unless everything got shut down and no one was allowed in the backcountry some of the more vocal environmental groups weren’t going to be happy. Again, it was a hot time,” she said.
But the CVRAMP was too important to abandon, so she and Gerry Wilkie – Area G Director who is also on the CVRAMP sub-committee – tried to start it back up again around three years ago.
“We want a recreation access management plan that defines specific areas for specific uses and then identifies the areas of concern where really nobody should be going in because of the possibility of damage to the environment or because of wildlife concerns and danger,” she said.
“Because we haven’t defined any clear areas where we’d like people to recreate, people make up their own trails, and that’s a problem because those grasslands are pretty fragile and once they get ripped up they don’t grow back for a while.”
Their attempt to revive the CVRAMP effort brought life back to the initiative.
The team has now engaged a consultant and received funding from Recreation Sites and Trails BC and encouragement from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
“We had a good show of colours from the province, which was one of those things that was missing in the past when it kind of went on hold,” she said.
They’ve also welcomed the snowmobile and dirt bike associations to the team.
“One of the big changes (when CVRAMP started up again) was that the motorized groups were at the table. We couldn’t do anything without them so that was a big plus,” she said.
Gary Prosser, president of the Windermere Valley Snowmobile Society, said the club has been involved with the initiative for around two years.
“The whole idea is that we’re one of the last areas that doesn’t have an access management plan, and because there’s a lot of different interest groups and different users, whether they’re bicyclists or hikers or motorized, we all have to play together on the land and understand really what the boundaries are,” he said.
“We feel that the only way to get that accomplished is by sitting at the table and having the conversations with everybody and coming up with a good idea and a good plan to implement it.”
On Tuesday, October 1st, he and Mayor Reinhardt were among around 30 people gathered at the Radium Hot Springs Centre to discuss moving forward.
“It went very well,” Mayor Reinhardt said. “The plan that we have is for 18 months so that’s fully dependant on the group and on funding… We feel like we’ve got some momentum and so we’re cautiously optimistic.”
Mr. Prosser is feeling hopeful too.
“I’m just looking forward to getting this plan completed,” he said. “Ultimately we all access the area that’s covered under the CVRAMP, and we want to make sure that everybody has a spot to play there.”