The Slocan Valley rail trail won’t be opened to motorized use, despite a recent letter from a government bureaucrat that appeared to cast some doubt.
The Vancouver Sun reported over the weekend that the province has dashed hopes of restricting ATVs, snowmobiles, and motor bikes from about 550 km of former railway corridors, including the Slocan Valley trail.
That was based on a letter assistant deputy minister Gary Townsend wrote in August, indicating the Ministry of Forests is changing its approach to rail trail management.
The letter said despite “significant capital investment” from government and stewardship groups, it has been “very difficult to achieve the vision for a world-class network of primarily non-motorized rail trails.”
Townsend said limited resources combined with the length and remoteness of some trails “presented many complex challenges” and the ministry now considers non-motorized designations impractical in more rural portions of the trails, which also include the Columbia and Western between Castlegar and Midway.
However, a ministry spokesman clarified this week that the policy change “will have no effect on the Slocan Valley rail trail as it is already designated non-motorized.”
In fact, public affairs officer Greig Bethel said, “the strategic allocation of resources will likely benefit the Slocan Valley and increase the ministry’s ability to ensure compliance with non-motorized use on the trail.”
The news comes as a relief to the Slocan Valley Heritage Trail Society, volunteer stewards of the 52 km former CPR line which runs from South Slocan to Slocan City. In a statement, they called it a “beautiful example of a quiet and safe non-motorized recreational trail.”
Last month, chair Helene Dostaler wrote to Townsend seeking assurances the trail would remain non-motorized, as it has been since its inception. She said most valley residents have supported non-motorized use, beginning with public meetings in the 1990s and reinforced by mail-in surveys of adjacent land owners and residents in general.
“In both cases the overwhelming majority supported non-motorized use of the trail,” Dostaler said. “Consistent issues raised were safety, noise levels and encouraging healthy activities.”
The trail society signed an agreement with Tourism BC in 2004 to manage the trail for non-motorized purposes. The following year saw competing petitions for and against motorized use, which culminated in an annual general meeting where 350 society members elected a slate of directors who supported non-motorized use.