A group of South Slocan Village residents stand under their community’s bridge last week

A group of South Slocan Village residents stand under their community’s bridge last week

LETTER: The cost of tunnel vision

The Slocan Valley Heritage Trail Society says maintaining access under the South Slocan bridge (or its replacement) is crucial to the trail.

Re: “South Slocan up in arms over underpass”

As managers of the Slocan Valley Rail Trail since 2001, the Slocan Valley Heritage Trail Society has been in various forms of communication with the Ministry of Transportation and Highways over the South Slocan bridge replacement project which is now coming to a head.

Through the original land owners, the Ministry of Tourism, and now with our current land owners, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, for years our message has been constant in these conversations we need to preserve continuity under whatever is built to connect the property we manage. The south end of the Slocan Valley Rail Trail is our future. It’s the gateway to a safe connection to other trail networks, such as the Trans Canada Trail. It keeps the gate open for the local community to enjoy the rail trail.

Here’s the relationship as things sit. The Ministry of Highways owns the bridge. The Ministry of Forests owns the land under the bridge. So there has to be some form of agreement reached for work to take place. The conversation is going something like this: “A tunnel costs money, we don’t have it. You have to come up with the money for the tunnel.” To put it another way “We (Ministry of Transportation) are going to block off your property, and you’ll have to come up with the funds if you want to stay connected to it.”

Now to the challenge. If we don’t have a safe access route, and as the recreational use of trails increases (the recent RDCK recreational master plan survey shows an 80 per cent plus use of the rail trail by local residents and trails as the No. 1 recreation resource people want to see throughout the region), there potentially will be a greater and greater number of people put at risk by making them ride a busy stretch of highway to link up the rail trail. Even with widening the shoulders of the highway, it is not a comforting scenario.

On March 1 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Mount Sentinel School, the Ministry of Transportation will be hosting an open house on the bridge replacement. We are urging everyone to show up (the board will be there at 6 p.m.) and support our vision of keeping the Slocan Valley Rail Trail intact. The Ministry of Transportation will probably say they can’t afford to include a tunnel. Our message is the same message we’ve been saying for the past 15 years. We can’t afford not to.

Craig Lawrence, Director, Slocan Valley Heritage Trail Society