The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) has decided to decommission The Coal Discovery Trail (CDT). The decision was carried after the RDEK denied a previous motion to postpone the decision at the RDEK meeting on Thursday, Aug 2.
It began when Mike Sosnowski, RDEK Area A director started looking at cutting costs over one year ago. The cost of maintaining the trail was approximately $2,568 annually. In conversation with the Fernie Trails Alliance (FTA), Sosnowski concluded the Hosmer to Sparwood trail was not used enough for the RDEK to concern itself with continued maintenance. Sosnowski approached the FTA regarding their interest in maintaining the CDT and they accepted the section from Fernie to Hosmer. “They’re the trail experts,” said Sosnowski.
“I represent my constituents. I don’t think local government should be in the business of trails. We shouldn’t own the trails. Our constituents do not need to pay for the costs or liability of these trails,” said Sosnowski. While he believes it’s great that recreational trail use is on the rise, he does not believe Area A constituents should be liable for the trails.
“If there was a great usage, then sure. But the FTA said nobody uses that trail. So why maintain something nobody is using? We will continue to fund the Coal Discovery Trail until January 31, 2014. If there are any users who would like to take over that section of the trail, we welcome them to do so as the FTA has done with the Fernie to Hosmer section.”
“We will assist any other organization who wants to take over (the Hosmer to Sparwood section) by going to local landowners to recognize them as the host,” said Sosnowski. “Decommissioning doesn’t mean the trail is going to be taken away or be deactivated. It’s a two track non-motorized trail on the power line. The trail will still be there but the RDEK Area A constituents will not be paying for the maintenance. Of course we will still contribute money through a grant process for trail work. But the FTA insurance will cover the liability (for the Fernie to Hosmer section), not the RDEK.”
Not everyone on the RDEK supported this decision as five directors voted against the decision. “The resolution to decommission the Coal Discovery Trail by the RDEK Board is very disappointing and is not supported by the District of Sparwood (DOS),” said Lois Halko, RDEK director and mayor of Sparwood.
“The resolution came forward with no notice at the RDEK Board meeting and an attempt to defer the decision was not supported. Discussions are just starting regarding the possibility of linking this trail with the Trans Canada Trail system and Council and staff at the DOS wholeheartedly look forward to our community being linked with 34 million of our fellow Canadians. The Coal Discovery Trail is a 32-kilometer wilderness trail within the RDEK parks and trails inventory as of 2004 as an Electoral Area A park. The DOS has been proud of this inclusion and has participated financially to the maintenance. Although the Sparwood to Hosmer portion of the trail requires upgrades, we have enjoyed that connectivity with Fernie. At a time when linkages to trail systems are sought after across our country, it is perplexing that our Elk Valley Coal Discovery Trail is not being supported as other trail linkages are within the RDEK.”
The Coal Discovery Trail was officially opened in September 2004.