A portion of the Kettle Valley Railway trail-bed through Kaleden that is privately owned has been fenced off and posted with “No trespassing” signs.
A former railway siding, the parcel of land was sold to a private company (0893178 BC Ltd.) last December. Company director Debbie McGinn said in a local newsletter, Skaha Matters, that she had been trying to work with the province to keep the trail open in perpetuity through a property exchange agreement, but provincial officials have indicated that such a deal would be very difficult and take a long time to do.
“We want to work with the province so that everyone can enjoy the trail, but allowing continued public use comes with a financial risk we can no longer accept. It will be with great regret that we shut that section of the trail down,” McGinn was quoted.
The property owner has erected a four-foot-high section of wire fence across the entrance to the trail on both sides of Alder Avenue. Another section of fence has been put up across the southern boundary of the property. Trail users now have to detour along Alder Avenue to avoid the section of property. McGinn responded to an interview request by email stating she will be sending out a media release and request to various government agencies and associations asking for support by the end of this week.
Premier Christy Clark said at a town hall meeting in Penticton earlier this month that the KVR is incredibly important, and when she took office there were issues that had been long-standing, this being one of them.
Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson, also at the town hall meeting, said the trails branch are working on this issue.
“The negotiations are ongoing. We’re meeting with those involved,” said Thomson, in response to a question from the town hall crowd about the property.
The province expressed interest in obtaining an easement through the property for the trail in 2008 but that did not occur before it was purchased by private interests in December 2010. The province originally negotiated two 25-foot easements at the north and south ends of the property to allow trail access to Alder Avenue, however, those agreements were never registered before the property changed hands to the private company.
“There’s not much I can say right now,” said John Hawkings, provincial trails manager. “This matter is somewhat related to a subdivision application before the province. We are not pursuing the land exchange issue until the subdivision process is complete. Our goal is to maintain trail access.”
Hawkings was asked if it would be possible for the province to indemnify the landowners against liability from trail users. He replied that it was possible, but an access agreement had to be in place first.
“We are in the early stages of resolving this matter,” he said. “There are many opportunities for us to consider — there is no need to panic yet.”