Arrow Lakes News
On July 30 concrete barriers appeared across sections of a trail that circumnavigates the village of Nakusp. The trail known as the wrap around trail and has been advertised in a 2003 brochure for the Nakusp Chamber of Commerce as a “four-season trail [that] circles the picturesque village of Nakusp providing a 5 kilometer circuit for strolling, dog walking, jogging or biking with portions also accessible to wheelchairs, rollerblades and baby carriages.” The trail was established in 1996 and has enjoyed almost 20 years of public use.
The barriers were abruptly put in place in response to a number of complaints the Village of Nakusp had been receiving regarding motorized use, and when the second incident of a near miss involving a child was reported, Mayor Karen Hamling had “no option but to put them up.”
“I understand that we didn’t give much notice,” Hamling commented regarding the public backlash to the unexpected barriers, “but when it is a safety issue like that and the situation is escalating we had to do something. We have tried to talk to some of the kids who have been misbehaving and they won’t listen, and there have been near misses on the highways when the riders are coming off the trail and onto the roads. If someone had gotten hurt during the time while we were putting out notices about the barriers, then there would have been a lot of unhappiness. Safety is paramount.”
The village has two bylaws on the books that prohibit motorized vehicles on the wrap-around trail; bylaws 242 and 466 restrict vehicle use to designated roads within the village. These bylaws were supported in 2008 when an 18-month community consultation as part of an Official Community Plan (OCP) resulted in the majority of the public expressing a desire for the trail to be primarily for pedestrian use. However, the mayor concedes that motorized vehicles have been using the trail system in the past without incident.
“We have not enforced the bylaw because up until the last little while it has not become an issue. The village enforces bylaws by complaint and now it has become a safety issue,” Hamling said.
Groups of community members who are opposed to the presence of the barriers have been very outspoken on the issue and have begun a petition to amend the bylaw and permit motorized vehicles on the wrap-around trail. Jacqui Cawthorn has headed up this public initiative after reading the public reactions on the Nakusp Communicator Facebook page.
“The general consensus was that a petition needed to be started, but no one was stepping forward,” Cawthorn explained, “so I began a petition on Change.org which has 244 supporters. But the mayor is saying that she will not accept an online petition and that it has to be a paper copy. So we have brought the petition to several businesses around town and the deadline the village has given us is September 9.”
Cawthorn and her supporters are confident that they will get the required 10 per cent of community members to sign the petition; they plan to make a presentation at the next council meeting after the September deadline.
“My goal,” Cawthorn clarifies, “is to try and find a solution that is going to work for everybody. I understand that every user group has their own issues with the trail, but hopefully we can get some input from the public on what they would like to see and try and make everybody happy. I feel it is important because we live in a village were this has been a way of life for many, many years. A lot of people use the trail to get to work, walk their dog, and ride their horses. The trail is used for a variety of purposes, but the only way to keep dirt bikes off the trail is to block it off to pretty much everybody, including people with strollers, people with horses [who] can no longer get through. People with bicycles have a tough time going through especially if they aren’t able to lift their bike over the barricade. I just want everyone to be able to use it.”