Launching boat access in Sparwood

The District of Sparwood held a forum to discuss the idea of a public boat launch in Sparwood on May 4.

The District of Sparwood held a forum to discuss the idea of a public boat launch in Sparwood on May 4.  The meeting had two objectives: to provide stakeholders with information on the boat launch initiative and to seek feedback on the potential environmental, economic and community impacts – both good and bad.

The meeting started with a brief history of the boat launch initiative by staff followed by BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (FLNR) personnel providing information on the 2015 Kootenay Angling Management Plan (KAMP) and the general health and function of the Elk River for anglers.

There is currently a gap in the river system for the public to launch between Line Creek and Olsen’s Pit sites.

In a proposal by Fisheries Technician Joe Strong of FLNR,  recommendations were made to improve boat access on the Elk River to make the upper reaches, which he defines as above Fernie, more accessible to boat anglers for a number of reasons.

“This would be beneficial in a  number of ways: firstly, it would decrease the congestion of anglers in the Fernie area, making the angling experience more enjoyable, while reducing site specific pressure on fish populations. Secondly, additional launch sites would allow anglers access to areas of the Elk River which currently receive significantly lower angling effort, but maintain vibrant and productive fish populations; thirdly, improved access in upper portions of the watershed would effectively improve the distribution of anglers and river related tourism resulting in tangible benefits to other communities in the region,” Strong said.

The forum had 17 participants, representing the Sparwood Chamber of Commerce, the Elk Valley Economic Initiative, Sparwood Fish and Wildlife, Teck, Angling Guides, Elk River Alliance, Sparwood Council, and the general public. According to Sparwood’s Manager of Planning, Nelson Wight, it was a good turn out that brought a range of perspectives and stakeholders together.

“I was really pleased with the turnout at the event, as there was representation from all the stakeholders from whom we were seeking input,” he said. “We heard from a range of perspectives from the angling community, who’s interested in having better access to the river for multiple recreation purposes, and those addressing the possible economic and tourism opportunities.”

There was discussion on many issues throughout the forum. According to Wight, staff will report the relevant themes of the discussions to the city in a future council meeting. He also welcomes continued input on the topic.

“There was great discussion on all the issues and I was encouraged to see the thoughtful participation of all who came.  Over the coming weeks, we will compile those comments and capture the relevant themes that we can summarize in a future report to Council.  We are continuing to solicit input from anyone with an interest in this topic,” he said.

Along with a summarization, council will receive a recommendation from staff advising to either go ahead with the planned boat launch or not.

“Furthermore, discussion on a possible location is also premature. In making our recommendation, however, we will endeavour to consider all the possible impacts — both positive and negative — to the environment, to the local and regional economy, and the local and regional community of users of this vital natural amenity,” Wight said.