Neighbours, conservationists, stakeholders and First Nations are rejoicing after a provincial government announcement Friday closed the kp’itl’els/Brilliant Flats to motorized traffic including off-road vehicles.
The prohibition went into effect immediately with conservation officers and government representatives placing cement barriers at the entrance to the area. However, the area will remain open for non-motorized activities.
kp’itl’els/Brilliant Flats is located at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers near Castlegar. It includes sensitive ecosystems, endangered camas plants and is an important site for First Nations.
Complaints have been accumulating in recent years, especially in the spring when the area becomes a popular spot for mud bogging and ATV usage — leaving behind deep ruts and disturbed vegetation. Other abuses in the area include camping, squatting and garbage dumping.
According to the Confederated Tribes of Colville and the Sinixt Confederacy, the area is of tremendous cultural, ecological, and archaeological significance to the Sn̓ʕay̓ckstx (Sinixt) people and was the ancestral home and burial site of the Christian family for countless generations. It is considered a sacred cultural site.
In a statement calling for action the Confederacy states, “Can you imagine ‘mud boggers’ in the cemetery where your family is laid to rest?”
The group is also calling for the site to be protected under the BC Heritage Conservation Act.
Some users have expressed concern about the decision however, citing that blocking all motorized vehicles limits access to the area for seniors and others with mobility issues. The spot is one of the few locations in the region that someone could actually drive all the way up to the riverbank and access it for fishing or picnicking.
The province says the new restrictions will help prevent environmental damage and ensure environmental protection concerns are addressed.
The restrictions have been implemented in partnership with the BC Conservation Officer Service, the RCMP and the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
“There have been growing concerns in recent years about unauthorized mud bogging (i.e., operating or racing off-road vehicles in wet earth or mud) on Crown land at kp’itl’els/Brilliant Flats and its associated impacts on the land and the environment,” said the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources in a March 12 press release.
The ministry says the specific stewardship concerns due to mud bogging and related activities include:
• water and soil contamination
• damage to forest and rangeland habitat
• public safety
• impacts on archaeological and cultural resources
• damage to recreational infrastructure
• displacement of wildlife
• lack of sanitation and garbage facilities
The restrictions will be enforced by natural resource officers, conservation officers and the RCMP, who will conduct regular patrols and educate the public at access points into the area.
The province says the restrictions for the area align with the partnership goals of the B.C. government and the Regional District of Central Kootenay to work together to engage with the public and First Nations, and to undertake a long-term planning process for the protection, stewardship and management of the site.