The Regional District of East Kootenay has approved up to $100,000 to help restore access to the Morrissey and Coal Creek areas which are popular with snowmobiling and winter recreation.
The RDEK board of directors has approved the funds after roads and bridges were heavily damaged during heavy rainfall events between mid-November and early December 2021, cutting access up the watersheds.
The damage to road and bridge infrastructure placed a question mark over the 2021-2022 season for the local snowmobile tourism industry, with staging points cut off from the rest of the valley.
“The Fernie Snowmobile Association (FSA) has been working tirelessly to find a way to restore public access to this critical winter area for all recreationalists and back country users and should be applauded for their efforts,” said Electoral Area A Director Mike Sosnowski.
“The funding we have approved will help to provide safe access for all users until a more permanent fix can be made and ensure this important economic generator can operate this winter.”
An option on the table is a temporary bridge across Morrissey Creek, but the funding can be used to seek alternate routes to allow access for sledders and other users for the 2021-2022 winter.
According to a study commissioned by the FSA, snowmobiling contributes $11.6 million in annual economic output for Fernie, creating 75 full-time jobs and $956,000 in government revenue.
With access to Morrisey and Coal Creek drainages currently inaccessible, the sector is looking down the barrel of significant disruption to the coming season.
The FSA has been working with multiple stakeholders and potential funding partners for a temporary solution for this winter.
The FSA has published opening dates for the various staging areas for its operations, with a tentative opening date on Jan. 15 2022 for Morrissey, with no opening date yet for Coal Creek.
According to the RDEK, should a bridge be the best option, work on installing a temporary bridge is expected to begin immediately. It will be removed prior to the spring run-off, after which Canfor – the lease holder of the lands – will seek a more permanent solution.
The funds will come through the Electoral Area A portion of the Elk Valley Mine Tax Sharing Funds.
Repairs to damage done to Coal Creek Rd, and the bridge crossing Coal Creek are still being assessed.
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