Image from Pixabay.

Proposed logging around rec trails sees public opposition

The Carmi Trails Group has launched an online petition to stop the project

Recreational users of the popular Pine Loop, Squirrel Loop and Fir Loop trails are petitioning against logging planned to take place in the area in 2019.

“Logging will destroy mountain biking, hiking, ATV, horseback riding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and skiing trails (and) wildlife habitats, too,” reads the online petition started by Neda Joss and the newly-formed Carmi Recreation Trails group. “Families, couples, friends, (and) clubs meet (and) play here, enjoying healthy, outdoor activities. Like the lakes, it’s one of Penticton’s lifestyle treasures.”

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Map of approximate locations of Pine Loop, Carmi Loop and Fir Loop trails near Penticton. Image from TrailForks.com.

The land in question, which is approximately 10 minutes outside of Penticton, is owned by the Crown and is zoned as Intensive Recreation. Plans regarding the cut block were first shared by BC Timber Sales (BCTS) to the South Okanagan Trail Alliance (SOTA) in November 2017.

“(SOTA) advised they shared the plans with more than 500 outdoor enthusiasts and advocates and advised that they had not heard any negative feedback,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

SOTA president Andrew Drouin said at that time the alliance was mainly focusing on the preservation of a nearby area and was hesitant opposing the logging company on its own.

“We were ambivalent towards the logging because we were focusing more on our effort in the canyon area (rather than the flatlands),” said Drouin. “This is because the canyon land can’t be logged because it has a wildlife covenant over it.”

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“So we thought, do we want to fight the logging company, and in most cases, that amounts to me and a couple people doing all the fighting, or do we just say ‘to hell with it’ and throw our hands up in the air and walk away and focus on the canyon trail? That’s what we chose to do,” said Drouin.

According to Drouin, SOTA is the group responsible for the area and could stand to see up to $3,000 from the profit of the timber sale, which is slated for 2020, due to a government program. This money would go towards signage and trail maintenance in the area, he said.

Although 11 citizens have contacted BCTS about the project since the plans were shared in 2017, a growing community-led opposition began to arise recently when users in the area saw workers ribboning trees. This is when Joss began to champion the movement, alongside the Carmi Trails Group, to stop the proposed logging.

“We had no idea there would be such ground support and people willing to stand behind their convictions instead of just putting it on our shoulders,” said Drouin. “It’s not just us trying to push this (opposition) up the hill, it’s mostly people from the community.”

“The clearcutting is going to change the whole serenity of the area. It won’t affect the lower trails, but further into the upper half of them,” said Joss. “They’re going to do a patch of clearcut logging but they’re going to use the trails that are there now as their roads.”

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“So the actual trails will be widened to four metres and turned into industrials roads and compacted. And then they’re going to cut four-metre strips on either side of the road to clear the timber — so that’s a 12-metre trough going through the forest.”

Joss and her family are frequent users of the trails and would hate to see the area altered. She said that those that use the area for cross-country skiing like herself will be largely impacted because the “sun will be hitting the trails more” with the clearcut and widening, “which will shorten the time that people will be able to use them as cross-country ski trails.”

Despite BCTS and SOTA sharing the project plans, Joss said she doesn’t believe the communication was clear. SOTA and trail users attended a field trip into the area on Oct. 12 to outline the proposed road and block development and to conduct a question and answer session.

“BCTS also contacted staff from the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and City of Penticton (June and September 2018) and local MLA’s office (April 2018) to identify the harvest plan and gauge interest in attending a field trip. No concerns or opposition were voiced,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

SOTA and the Carmi Recreation Trails group recently met to establish a plan in order to better mobilize their efforts and work together. They intend to contact local government officials to gain their support in this initiative.

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In the meantime, Joss is encouraging concerned residents to sign her online petition against the project. Since launching the petition over the weekend of Oct. 20, Joss said she’s already received over 700 signatures.

“Initially we were thinking we might be able to get 500 signatures, but I’m totally amazed by the community support about this,” said Joss. “Now we think 1,000 signatures sounds realistic, but we want to take this back to BCTS and show them this petition and say there are over 700 people opposed to this. So just to get them to talk more about this.”

Joss said the Carmi Recreation Trails group isn’t necessarily against logging in general but are just taking issue with this specific clearcut project.

“Logging has to happen, it’s a provincial organization and that’s how the province makes its money. But why this particular area? I think BCTS, because they’re all situated in Vernon, maybe they didn’t know the impact and how much this area is used by the community,” said Joss. “But they’re certainly finding out now.”

“BCTS is assessing and considering the users’ input to minimize the impact to recreation resources without precluding harvesting; for example, issuing the timber sale licence for a one-year term only, with no logging during winter to minimize impact to cross-country skiing,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

For more information about the Carmi Recreation Trails group, visit their Facebook page. To view the online petition, click here.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter

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