A delegation attempting to preserve Sasquatch Park spoke to Kent council on Monday night, hoping to sway their decision to not take a stand against road building through the Class A park.
John Coles spoke on behalf of himself, Todd Kabaluk, Lillian Martin and Debbie Hansen, asking council for three points of action.
They asked them to hold a vote to oppose a boundary adjustment proposal that Tamihi Logging and Seabird have submitted, that would permit logging truck traffic through Sasquatch. They also asked that Kent looks for an alternative route out of the area that does not travel through Sasquatch. The District of Kent includes the land around Rockwell Drive, and is obligated by the province to provide an alternate emergency route for all residents. Currently there is only one road in and out, which is potentially a life-endangering situation if an emergency cut off access to Rockwell Drive and the recreation areas beyond Harrison.
Finally, the group asked council to inform the Kent Harrison Joint Emergency Program of the activities being taken to preserve the park.
“Logging trucks going through the park will kill the park,” Coles said. “We believe it will be catastrophic.”
But Mayor John Van Laerhoven stated that the most important point for Kent to consider is the safety of its residents.
“We have a responsibility to our citizens,” he said. “We are compelled by provincial statute to do that. We want an emergency route that would be used if either mayor (Kent or Harrison Hot Springs) declared an emergency.”
In addition to the residents that may need access to food, water, shelter and medication during a road-closing emergency, there are more than 300,000 visitors to the Sasquatch Park recreation areas each year.
“What would happen if there were a wildfire?” Van Laerhoven said. Last summer, a fire along Rockwell Drive did cut off services and traffic for several hours. At least one resident has told the Observer that they were cut off from their medication during that time.
“It’s just not as simple as simply saving the park. We have a responsibility outside saving the park, things we need to consider.”
Kabaluk also spoke, answering questions posed by council following the presentation.
“There will always be pressure on the park,” Kabaluk said. “There are huge pressures on all parks, all the time.”
Coles noted that they have gather more than 800 signatures in support of preserving the park.
While Tamihi and Seabird have been attempting to gain road access to a woodlot, the District of Kent has been trying to find an emergency exit. Many public discussions have integrated the two concepts, in the hopes that one road could provide both services. However, an emergency route would be locked at all times, only to be opened in the case of an emergency. The logging proposal includes a boundary adjustment that would remove a part of the current road from the park to allow industrial traffic. Once opened to industrial traffic, any company could haul trucks on it.
“I believe they should find an alternate route that does not impact upon the Park and could possibly suite both needs and leave the Park intact,” Coles told the Observer. “It is a choice of where dollars will be going; into the pockets of the logging companies who harvest the timber in the area or into the construction of a new road outside of the park.”
For past stories on this issue, visit the Observer online at www.agassizharrisonobserver.com.