By Lorene Keitch
Rafting companies are facing a second season of no access to their main source of income because of lack of access from CP Rail to the lower Kicking Horse River.
Raft employee Jair Stolz, a spokesman for the rafters and an employee at Glacier Raft Company, has filed a petition seeking to end CPs ban.
The fight between CP and the seven rafting companies working the Kicking Horse River began last summer. Rafters had been accessing this gem of the Kicking Horse River by crossing over CP Rail tracks for 40 years without incident. Then last spring, CP barricaded the tracks, citing safety reasons.
After petitioning and strong support in the community and beyond, CP Rails Mark Wallace, vice president of corporate affairs and chief of staff, came to Golden in April 2016 and proclaimed they had come up with a solution that all parties would be happy with.
We want to see the residents enjoy the use of the river, and I think were pleased and tickled to death that we could find a solution to this issue, he said at the time.
However, in spite of the promises made, nothing changed.
They committed to having it open from May long weekend on last year, recalled Mr. Stolz, Then opening day, we were greeted at the gate by armed police barring access and telling us it was closed.
Since last seasons closure, Mr. Stolz said rafters, municipal, provincial and federal officials have been trying to negotiate with CP Rail over access. Mr. Stolz said they hope, with this latest petition, to attract more attention and let CP Rail know they will continue to fight.
What we saw last year was when we made a big enough stink, CP came down and at least told us what we wanted to hear, said Mr. Stolz. My hope is in letting them know again were not going away, that this is an important industry in our community.
The petition calls on the government to recognize the importance of the rafting industry in Golden, to hold CP Rail accountable to promises they made to the rafting industry and the town of Golden to re-open the lower canyon access point, and to work with CP Rail to reinstate safe and legal access to the Kicking Horse River lower canyon section, to support the community and rafting industry as soon as possible.
To sign the petition, go to https://www.facebook.com/savethelower/ and click on the link.
The petition follows a move by Kootenay Columbia MP Wayne Stetski who is backing a private members bill. The bill, put forward by Laurier-Sainte Marie MP Helene Laverdiere, would give the federal Minister of Transport the authority to require rail companies to build a level crossing on a rail line at the ministers discretion.