BC’s motorized off-road sports groups are excited about the potential for the Cascade Skyline Gondola project to impact their most used trails.
Members of the BC Quad Riders Association, the BC Dirt Bike Association, the BC Snowmobile Federation and the BC Four Wheel Drive Association sent a letter and map to local governments and the media on January 6th.
They disputed the statement in the previous one Chilliwack Progress the project proponent’s story that the project property “has little impact on trails/roads in the drainage.”
The gondola proposal, in partnership with the Cheam First Nation, is awaiting approvals and the groups say they hope to be able to mitigate some of the impacts.
The project is to build a sightseeing gondola up to the ridge above the foothills where the Bridal Falls Golf Course is now, and from there they plan to offer walking and hiking options.
The groups said the project has “the potential to limit up to 80 percent of motorized trail access” in the Cheam, Thurston Loop and Chipmunk areas.
“We have provided a draft map of the proposed project and current trails to show current impacts,” the group’s letter said.
Chipmunk Forest Service Road is a “key access road” for motorized users and is listed as closed.
“This proposal also blocks the most used trail on the mountain, the Thurston Loop, and further blocks access to the loop’s ultimate goal of the lookout,” the letter continued.
However, the project’s proponent, Jason Faulkner, of the Bridal Falls Gondola Corp. countered that the project would “in no way” restrict 80 percent of the trails as the groups allege.
“We disagree with that assertion,” Faulkner said.
Their proposal is to install ramps on some access roads, but he estimates this will only cover about 11 kilometers of roads currently used by motorized trail users.
“Our entire property application is for approximately 400 acres of the total Chipmunk Creek drainage of 4,200 acres.
“It will only affect 10 percent of the total land base, and probably even less than that in actual use. So the claim that the gate will close most of their tracks is not true,” Faulkner said.
The exact location of the proposed gate is on public record, he said.
“It is physically impossible for our project to close motorized access to such a large area,” Faulkner said.
It has always been a matter of security to maintain a distance between groups of users.
“The rental area would be non-motorized for the safety of our guests who would walk and hike on our trails and roads, and for safety reasons, as an experience of ecological and cultural tourism, and the property represents about 11 kilometers of road closures. compared to the estimated 70 to 80 kilometers of motorable roads and tracks in the area.”
Faulkner pointed out that ultimately any land use planning decisions about draining Chipmunk Creek have nothing to do with their project.
“These are decisions made by all interested parties,” he said. They include motorized groups, as well as the BC Mountaineering Club, Chilliwack Outdoor club, Fraser Valley Regional District, and more, but most importantly the Cheam First Nation, Pelolxw Nations, and others whose traditional territory includes the Chipmunk Creek area.
“Our project will be just one voice at that table. To claim that we as advocates have any control over this area is simply not true.”
Representatives of the group said they initially met with the project proponent last fall to discuss these issues.
The groups met on January 5 as a group to discuss their options, reiterating plans to try to find a solution.
“Given the thousands of volunteer hours put into this area by all our associations and local clubs, including trail development, maintenance and cleaning over the past 70 years, we feel it is important that our members are considered and consulted when making decisions which will affect these public riding areas. We firmly believe that an effective solution can be found that will meet the needs of all parties,” the letter from the motorized groups states.
“We encourage the proponents of this project to consider the impacts to all outdoor recreation groups and encourage the proponent to work with us to mitigate those concerns before moving forward.”
The letter of concern about access to the trail was signed by:
Chris D’Silva, President, ATVBC Quad Riders Association of BC;
Peter Sprague, Executive Director, BC Off-Road Motorcycle Association;
Donegal Wilson, Executive Director, BC Snowmole Federation; and
Kim Reeves, President, Four Wheel Drive Association of BC.
Looking at the frequently asked questions (FAQ) section of the gondola project website, it actually becomes clear that motorized vehicle access will not be allowed.
“Will the property allow motorized vehicle access (eg ATV, Quad) and camping?”
“No, the property will exclude such uses to allow for the recovery and management of the land within,” is the proponent’s response in the FAQ. Faulkner added that despite this, they are indeed talking about an opportunity for alternative loop driving.
Elsewhere in the FAQ: “A key objective of the project is to provide management for the protection, enhancement and regeneration of habitat wherever possible in partnership with First Nations rights holders on whose traditional territory it is located.”
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Fraser Valley Open Space and Recreation Provincial Government