The Columbia and Western trailhead in Castlegar. The province wants to convert the recreational trail back to a roadway that allows industrial use. Photo by John Boivin

Castlegar Rec Commission demurs on West Kootenay trail debate

Much to the chagrin of the 40 quadders who showed up to support the change

Politicians on the Castlegar and District Recreation Commission sidestepped demands to come out in favour of motorizing the Columbia-Western Rail Trail last week.

About 40 members of a group that manages the trail came to the monthly commission meeting last Thursday to support of the province’s plan to allow heavier motorized use of the trail.

In August the province announced it was considering changing the designation of the 67-kilometre trail to allow for industrial use.

SEE: West Kootenay trail designation sparks debate

While some groups have opposed the plan, saying it goes against the idea of the Great Canadian Trail being a pedestrian and biking trail, dozens showed up to the commission hearing to say they like the plan.

“Why is there such a big fuss over this? We all want to use it, just use common sense, like ride your quad at the proper speed limit, and your pickup truck,” said one quad user at the meeting. “It sounds like you’re wanting to let a few people who want to hike and bike control everything.”

But the commission members — Castlegar city councillors and directors from the RDCK board — weren’t going to be drawn into the debate.

The commission staff has received hundreds of pages of submissions from people on both sides of the issue. But because the recreation commission has no authority or responsibility for the trail, they said they would only forward those submissions to provincial authorities.

“All we do is receive the information and then we determine, is this something we have jurisdiction over,” repeated Area I director Andy Davidoff. “And where we have no jurisdiction over an item, and we don’t over this, we forward the information on.”

“We’re in the middle of a process for developing a strategy for all the trails in the regional district, and what will happen is that there’ ll be a community consultation process,” he added, though admitting that process won’t begin until well after the trail decision will be made.

Not everyone was happy with the commissioner’s stand. West Kootenay Trail Society president Jeremy Nelson said he felt the commissioners could have a say on the issue.

“We have listed you guys as stakeholders, the regional district as stakeholders, the communities as stakeholders,” he said. “Your master plan may not have something saying it’s your jurisdiction, but as the stewardship holder of that, we have stated we want the voice of these commissions, of these communities, and the people who use them. That’s why you got the information you did.

“So you do have the ability to have a voice and support it or not support it. So it is the realm of what you guys do.”

However, the most the commissioners would agree to do is discuss the role of the Columbia-Western Trail as part of larger public consultations on trail systems in the area.

The realization the commission had nothing to do with the Columbia-Western Trail had some of the back-country explorers wondering if they had got lost on the trail of government decision-making.

“Who can answer this? Somebody’s supposed to be able to answer this, that’s why we’re at this meeting,” said one frustrated audience member.

“No, we’re not, actually,” replied a commission member.

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