Lakes District recreation sites and trails at risk

The Lakes Outdoor Recreation Society is once again in desperate need of funding.

The Lakes Outdoor Recreation Society (LORS) is once again in desperate need of a funding source to enable them to continue to maintain 28 local recreation sites, nine trails and two provincial parks.

LORS president Lynn Synotte said to Lakes District News that Comfor Management Services Ltd. (CMSL) has indicated it is prepared to consider providing financial assistance to LORS for the next three years, but have also encouraged the society to continue to pursue other avenues of funding.

Synotte said LORS needs approximately $45,000 per year to maintain the local recreation  sites and trails.

“We have received $10,000 from Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. and that’s all so far,” she said.

According to Synotte, CMSL has allotted 20 hours of Burns Lake Community Forest (BLComfor) general manager, Dawn Stronstad’s time to assist with the coordination of the LORS maintenance contract.

“BLComfor has assisted us financially and with staff time since 1992,” Synotte said.

In a bid to help the society gain the further $35,000 needed to cover expenses this year, Synotte wrote a letter to Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad expressing the importance of the recreation sites and trails to local residents and visitors.

“The LORS board of directors has taken their responsibilities very seriously. Despite financial challenges we have managed to keep these popular recreation sites and trails open and in good condition, largely because we recognize their economic, social and recreational value to our community,” Synotte said.

All of the area’s recreation facilities are accessible to members of the public free of charge and conservative estimates suggest that as many as 2,500 people utilized the region’s recreation sites and trails in 2011. “Use of these facilities contributes an estimated $250,000 to the local economy each year,” she said.

LORS has three years left on the five year agreement the society signed with the province to maintain the sites.

“We will continue to pursue funding to keep these recreation sites and trails open for the duration of that contract and we will discuss renegotiating the contract in three years. If the funding dries up, I honestly don’t know what will happen with the recreation sites and trails. I guess we will have to cross that bridge when we get to it,” Synotte said.

Rustad said to Lakes District News that he is working with LORS to help secure ongoing funding. “We are looking at gaming grants,” he said.

Rustad said, “While the $35,000 the society is asking for doesn’t sound like a lot, when it is compounded around the province, it is a significant amount and the government is facing has challenges in funding education and health care. It all adds up.”

Rustad said one solution he has suggested that would solve the problem of funding recreation sites and trails is to mine the Windy Craggy site in B.C.’s Northwest.

“I know that this is probably a very controversial subject, but the area is a very rich [copper-cobalt] mineral deposit and if the government sold this land, the proceeds could be put into a trust and used to fund and maintain recreation sites and trails for many generations to come,” he said.

Windy Craggy, or Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Wilderness Park is a 9,580 square kilometre park located in the Northwest corner of B.C. The park borders British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Alaska.

It was established in 1993 after an intensive campaign by Canadian and American conservation organizations to halt mining exploration and development and protect the area.

Rustad said, “The area is very remote and I doubt that more than 100 people have visited.”

“It is a very rich resource and while it is a beautiful valley and is a grizzly bear habitat … it may be worth us taking a few square kilometres for a mine in that area.”

Rustad said that much of government’s funding is derived from economic activity on the land base. “I know this is a controversial suggestion, but it would solve the issue of funding recreation sites and trails … it is a trade off,” he added.

For more information on Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Wilderness Park go to www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks.