A group passionate about preserving a favourite rock climbing location in Kinnaird is making progress toward their goal of purchasing the area commonly known as the Kinnaird Bluffs. Fears about the loss of use of the area for rock climbing and hiking surfaced a few months ago when the property was put on the market.
The Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers (TAWKROC) has negotiated a price of $57,000 with the seller for the 17.5 acre parcel and placed a conditional offer that has been extended until April 14 as the group works out some necessary arrangements before the property can be purchased.
TAWKROC has applied for status as a nonprofit society so they can hold title on the land, requesting due to the time restraints of the situation that the application be fast-tracked.
The group does not plan to hold the title permanently and has pitched the idea to Castlegar’s city council of the city taking over the land. Their goal is to see the area turned into a park. In their presentation the group brought up a City of Castlegaropen space study from 1992 that targeted the area as a site for a recreation corridor.
“The goal of the project is to purchase this and then make sure it is accessible to all,” said TAWKROC representative Vince Hempsall. “It’s not only rock climbers that are really impassioned about this, but also people who just want to see a green space and go hiking on the trails there or basically not see this turn into a quarry.”
Council told the group that it is something they are interested in exploring. “Planning and Development has already been in discussion about it. We are looking at it and discussing it, looking into liabilities and different things like that,” said Councillor Deb McIntosh. “It is important to preserve that green space.”
Historically, the area has been used by climbers since the 1950’s and is sometimes used as a training area for those wanting to gain mountaineering skills. It has also been used by Selkirk College as an instructional area for about 30 years because of its unique geology, vegetation and wildlife including the western blue-tailed skink, a blue-listed species.
TAWKROK also reported that the bluffs are attracting out-of-town visitors. “We are starting to see an influx in this area of rock climbing tourism,” said Hempsall. “There is a real opportunity here for the city to play this up.”
Another step required will be amending the covenants that are currently on the property. The covenants are very restrictive and basically would not allow for any maintenance to be done to the area, including the trails. Even though these covenants have been in place for a while, they have not been observed, and according to Hempsall, the current owner was not even aware they were in place. Phil Markin, director of development services for Castlegar explained that in order to amend the covenant a geotechnical engineer will need to evaluate the property.
The final hill to climb will be raising the finances, but the group is well on the way. They have already raised about $10,000, which in reality is $20,000 because the group has what it is calling an “angel investor” that is matching donations.