A map which shows proposed motor vehicle closure areas near Sicamous, highlighted in yellow. (B.C. government image)

A map which shows proposed motor vehicle closure areas near Sicamous, highlighted in yellow. (B.C. government image)

Sicamous council concerned proposed motor-vehicle closures will hinder sledding season

Province seeks to minimize access to areas affected by wildfires

Lack of access to Sicamous’ popular snowmobile trails this winter could send the local economy sledding downhill.

District of Sicamous council is concerned proposed motor vehicle closures (MVCs) could negatively impact snowmobile tourism and, as a result, local businesses this winter.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) has proposed emergency MVCs in many areas affected by wildfires, including areas near Sicamous where the Two Mile Road wildfire was burning this summer.

“The purpose of the proposed MVCs is to prevent further damage to the now sensitive soils and vegetation within the burned areas, to prevent the spread of invasive species, and to minimize access to vulnerable wildlife populations,” wrote Eric Valdal, FLNRORD director of resource management for the Thompson-Okanagan region in a letter to “the recreation community.”

At Sicamous council’s Oct. 27 meeting, Coun. Gord Bushell brought forward a motion that recommended the district compose a letter to FLNRORD about the district’s concerns with the closures. Bushell asked that it be sent to Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo and North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold as well.

The motion was passed unanimously.

A draft of the letter references a report which states an estimated $5.6 million was injected into Sicamous’ economy from the 2020-21 snowmobiling season.

“Council agrees with the ministry’s intent to protect affected wildfire areas from further damage,” reads the letter. “However, it does not support the hasty development of these proposals as the decision lacks meaningful consultation with municipalities and recreational user groups, particularly those with Recreation Sites and Trails BC agreements.”

Bushell said even if an agreement for snowmobilers to just stay on the forest service roads could be reached, it would be good to “keep the ball rolling, and the economy going, for the restaurants, hotels and businesses.”

Mayor Terry Rysz thanked Bushell for his motion, stating the closures are “Seriously concerning for the District of Sicamous, and for that matter, other jurisdictions as well.”

Read more: Sicamous chamber, residents fear fast food franchise development would hurt district

Read more: Shuswap woman attracts provincial attention with her lone pro-COVID-19-vaccine sign

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