A float down the Columbia River is one of this area’s biggest attractions.
However, the infrastructure to support visitors to the wetlands is lacking, according to the group tasked with overseeing the wetlands. Currently, paddlers doing the popular Invermere to Radium paddle trip, which is roughly a four hour journey, will find no washroom facilities along the trip.
The Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners (CWSP), a diverse group of community interests, First Nations and government agencies, is tasked with developing effective stewardship and management practices for the Columbia Wetlands and Upper Columbia River.
They presented a proposal, through Area G Director Gerry Wilke, to the Regional District of East Kootenay, to look at the possibility of adding toilet facilities and address public boat accesses along the Columbia River from Fairmont to Spillimacheen.
“Director Wilke brought forward a priority project to investigate perhaps the establishment of access points, to look at whether we could provide porta potties,” explains Kevin Paterson, RDEK environmental services manager.
Wilke says the CWSP have discussed the idea of facilities at boat drop-in points already established along the river.
“It’s been well known there are no facilities in the river, right from Columbia Lake to Golden,” says Wilke. “Everybody realizes these facilities should be provided. It’s a matter of who’s going to do it and where are they going to go.”
Wilke emphasizes that no one is considering new boat launch drop-in points or washroom facilities at new entry points.
“The preferred sites are the historical sites: the bridge at Athalmer, the bridge at Radium, the landing at Station Road in Edgewater, the bridge area at Brisco and the bridge area at Spillimacheen,” he lists.
Upriver from Invermere, drop-in points include the outlet of Columbia Lake in Fairmont and along River Drive.
The CWSP did a pilot project last summer with portapotties in Invermere, Edgewater and Farimont to gauge interest.
“They were very much appreciated,” reports Wilke.
The RDEK has applied for a grant for $10,000 through the BC Rural Dividend Program to conduct a feasibility study for this project. If the project is approved, Paterson says they would use the funds to engage with a contractor to address the idea and look at possible opportunities for facilities.
Meanwhile, the Village of Radium Hot Springs is looking to make permanent changes to the Columbia River access lands donated by Schickedanz West in June, 2016. Radium CAO Mark Read says they have not finalized what changes to make yet; however, they are hoping to look at ideas and plan on construction for this fall.
“Some things we’re looking at are permanent toilets, bear proof garbage containment, improved parking and probably the most important element will be safer egress onto Forester Landing Forest Service Road,” says Read.