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Naturalists wary about KVR plan

Some local naturalists are wary about next week’s public unveiling of a new conceptual plan for a portion of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail.

“This meeting I think is a good thing, insomuch as it finally brings out into the open that it’s the government’s intent to have motorized transport on the KVR,” said Brian Sutch, president of the Penticton Adventurers Club hiking group.

“I think there’s going to be quite a bit of outrage.”

A press release issued last week to announce the meeting Tuesday at the Naramata Centre mentions only that the plan calls for “enhanced trail opportunities for motorized users” on the section between Naramata and Chute Lake. John Hawkings, provincial trails manager for the B.C. government, declined to provide specifics of the plan ahead of the meeting, but acknowledged that it includes greater access for motorized riders.

“We are to some extent proposing a separation of uses. Where we can, we are developing alternative motorbike and ATV routes, and we’re providing additional and new facilities for both user groups,” he said.

“We’re working with the ATVers and the dirt-bikers and the mountain-bikers and the cyclists and the walkers and everybody to come up with a holistic plan for the area that ensures that everyone has really high-quality recreation opportunities, whether you’re an ATVer or a cyclist.”

For motorized users, that will mean access to sites like the rock ovens near Chute Lake, according to Terry Wardrop, spokesperson for the Quad Riders ATV Association of B.C., which participated in part of the planning process.

“The plan has identified certain sections where there will be mixed use, and certain sections that will be exclusively non-motorized. But in order to achieve that, the government is going to have to do some work on connecting trails. The whole idea is to get the best of both worlds,” he said.

Furthermore, the KVR and other rail trails are long, straight and “kind of boring,” Wardrop continued, so it’s the side trails in which motorized users are most interested, and riders shouldn’t all be painted with the same brush.

“Simply put: We’re not the enemy, and unfortunately, like anything, there’s always some people that don’t get it and spoil it for the rest.”

The conceptual plan, which Hawkings said is a pilot project that could be used elsewhere in B.C., will also test the validity of a conflict resolution committee that’s been working for a year to formalize a process to address some of the “ongoing conflicts between motorized and non-motorized users on the provincial rail trail network.”

Hawkings also noted the proposal isn’t set in stone.

“We think we’ve done a really good job putting together a plan that represents everybody, but we certainly will be providing lots of time at the meeting for the public to give us their thoughts.”

Recommended improvements would cost $1 million to $2 million, depending on availability of grants, and take two years to complete, Hawkings added.

Tuesday’s meeting at the Naramata Centre begins at 6:30 p.m.

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