Public pressure and community action around the loss of access to the Lower Canyon of the Kicking Horse River seems to being having an effect on CP Rail, says Mayor of Golden Ron Oszust who has received a request from representatives of CP Rail to meet with the community on Friday, April 22.
A decision by CP Rail to block rafters and other paddlers from accessing the Lower Canyon across CP Rail tracks would have had significant impacts on rafting companies’ product for this summer season. The Lower Canyon is world renowned for its whitewater, and is considered the crown jewel of the Kicking Horse River.
“I have always been confident that CP Rail would return to its role of community partner, to find a resolution to this issue,” said Oszust. “Losing access to this key community asset was simply not an option.
“Communities like Golden partner with CP Rail; we work together, mitigating risk as required, to ensure that goods travel safely through our communities. But that also means that CP Rail has to ensure that they are supporting, not hindering, important tourism products, like the Lower Canyon, which bring significant dollars into our economy.”
Through the winter, discussions have taken place to address concerns with the crossing, with rafting companies feeling confident that a solution would be found in time for the season opening on the May Long Weekend. But on March 24th, CP Rail announced that they would not allow a crossing of any kind.
“It was very discouraging to hear that CP Rail had taken that decision,” said Norm Macdonald, MLA for Columbia River Revelstoke, who attended the meeting with CP Rail. “We were shocked. But we were also determined that there had to be a way forward.
“Immediately, there was a groundswell of support for the rafting community from citizens, local business owners, tourism associations, all three levels of government, and from people around the world who had paddled this stretch of river, or hoped to in the future.”
An online petition, a Facebook page, letter writing campaigns to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Transportation Minister Marc Garneau appeared almost overnight. And the community is planning an event on April 30th to show their support for the Lower Canyon. Hundreds of people are expected to converge on the river banks, and float the final stretch of river into the heart of downtown Golden.
“My challenge to CP Rail was to turn this protest on April 30 into a celebration of the river by finding a solution that secures access to the Lower Canyon,” continued Macdonald. “We’ve worked well with CP Rail for decades, and I can say that both as MLA and in my previous role as Mayor of Golden.
“It certainly looks like CP Rail is now ready to find a solution, and I look forward to a positive announcement following our meeting on Friday.”
A quick resolution is required to allow rafting companies to get ready for the season opening which will take place on May 21.
“This has been a tremendous challenge for rafting companies this last month,” said Glacier Raft owner Ryan Johannesen. “Instead of being able to focus on marketing, booking trips, hiring staff, and preparing for the season, all our effort has gone into trying to save this part of our business. It has been very difficult.
“We are looking forward to a successful meeting with CP Rail executives on Friday, and to finally being able to put our energies into promoting the world class product that we have in the Kicking Horse River. This is a real win for the whole community that relies on the guests our companies bring to town.
“And we are so grateful to our community for their support and determination to resolve this crisis. This wasn’t just a fight for our businesses. It was a fight for access to public lands and community assets.”