By Kelsey Verboom
A group of Columbia Valley residents attempting to make an access management plan for the areas backcountry faces an uncertain future.
If its latest meeting was any indication, where attendance numbers fell by two-thirds, the group, named the Columbia Valley Recreation Access Coalition, has reached a precarious moment. The coalitions most recent challenge happened this month, when the provincial government decided to pull government staff involvement in the coalition, which some coalition members argue now makes the point of engaging in the planning process a moot one.
But friction within the coalition began long before recent weeks. Since the beginning, its monthly meetings have been charged with tension and finger-pointing, when backcountry users of all types packed together in a small room to try and compromise. For the most part, participants tried to be mature and gave the air of being able to rise above and reach agreements between user groups that often clash in the backcountry.
However, once out of the meeting room, user groups within the coalition made alliances at their own private meetings, some had back-door talks with government, and others insulted the various types of user groups with comments like recent remarks in the media by a coalition member that referred to some backcountry users as jackasses.
When the coalition first formed, I wrote an editorial about how hopeful I was that the idea could succeed. I hate to now be the cynic, but after observing the group since December, I am doubtful it will work. There are just too many personal agendas at play, and too many doubts have been cast by poor administrative/procedural decisions for the group to truly embody the meaning of a coalition.
In addition, as a member of the media I have now had to stand up in front of the group not once, not twice, but three times, to fight for my right to be there. Many (but certainly not all) people in the coalition would rather the talks about public land use be private. Some have asked to edit my stories, or to vote on whether the quotes said in a meeting are allowed to be used in the media.
Because of this consistent lack of transparency, charged emotions and an uncertain level of government backing, it might make most sense for the coalition to take a step back and truly evaluate why its efforts arent working.