Recently, BC Parks hosted open houses in regards to proposed upgrades to the Columbia Lake Provincial Park. In total, there were about 100 people — for the most part, all residents of Fairmont.
The park is located just south of Fairmont, on the east side of Columbia Lake. Let me be clear: it is the only public access point for the community of Fairmont at the north end of the lake and, in my opinion, is a community asset. In addition, this area has significant cultural and environmental values. These are well-known and respected in the community. There are also challenges with the access and it has seen minimal improvements over the years from BC Parks.
BC Parks presented three scenarios: one being status quo; the second decommissioning the road at Warspite Creek (which is the current access road to the lake) and having a walking trail 500 metres to the lake; the third option is substantial road upgrades and 60 to 80 car parking lot at the lake.
Acknowledging the cultural significance of this area for the First Nations, the third option is not feasible, reasonable or realistic.
In May 2013, BC Parks met with various community leaders in Fairmont. At this meeting, it was suggested that a compromise could be achieved. This option is to have a parking lot (10 to 15 vehicles) at Warspite Creek, decommissioning the road past that point, and have minimal upgrades on the current road down to the lake, with a turnaround. The intent is to give people the ability to drive to the lake, drop off people, (including the elderly, small children and those with mobility challenges), lawn chairs, kayaks, windsurfers, paddleboards and anything else that people would require while enjoying the lake.
I believe this approach respects the cultural, environmental and community values. This is not about more access, rather enhancing existing access. This is the level of access that my constituents in Fairmont will want and will not have adverse impacts on the environment. To date, I have been working with Minister Bill Bennett who has provided support. In addition, MLA Norm MacDonald is aware of the situation. BC Parks is accepting feedback until April 11th. I strongly urge you to submit comments to Greg Chin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wendy Booth is the Regional District of East Kootenay Director for Area F and the RDEK board’s vice chair. She can be reached at email@example.com or 250-345-6155.