Koocanusa crackdown

Authorities are seeking public feedback on a plan to address the Koocanusa Reservoir’s increasing popularity with summer visitors.

  • Jan. 28, 2017 10:00 a.m.

By Ezra Black

Authorities are seeking public feedback on a plan to address the Koocanusa Reservoir’s increasing popularity with disorderly summer visitors.

The reservoir has become an important tourism and recreation attraction. It is estimated that up to 25,000 people visit the lake on summer weekends, said a 2014 study.

But visitors are leaving excessive amounts of litter and garbage in the backcountry.

“One of the worst [incidents] I have seen was May long weekend 2015,” said Rob Gay, a director of the Regional District of East Kootenay in a statement. “[There was] a big party resulting in three vehicles being burnt, truck loads of waste left after the party and many tents, chairs and sleeping bags burnt.”

Gay said May long weekend is a particularly unruly time on the lakeshore.

“My view is that people have been cooped up all winter and finally get a chance to camp,” he said. “Because the lake is low, boating is not an option so shore parties are the thing to do. Don’t get me wrong I have no issue with camping and a few adult drinks [but] some take it to extremes and don’t care about our environment.”

In response, a number of groups have partnered to create the Koocanusa Recreation Steering Committee and the Koocanusa Recreation Public Advisory Group to help address a range of issues related to tourism and recreation in the area.

The groups are holding a series of open houses to discuss issues associated with recreation use of Crown lands in the Koocanusa area.

Open houses in the Elk Valley will be held Feb. 7 at the Fernie Family Centre and Feb. 8 at the Jaffray Community Hall from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

The feedback received will be used to identify the next set of actions to be taken under the Koocanusa Recreation Management Initiative.

Those unable to attend the open houses can complete the Koocanusa Recreation Management Options Survey online.