RV park on the horizon for Fernie

Following a positive and well-received public hearing, a planned RV park is one step closer to coming to Fernie.

Following a positive and well-received public hearing, a planned RV park is one step closer to coming to Fernie.

The owner of the property commonly known as the wrangler or rodeo grounds is proposing to turn the lot into an RV park. Reto Barrington owns close to 30 acres of land located west of the Fernie Golf Club and north of McDougall Creek. He’s asking the City of Fernie to allow him to rezone the lot from Rural Residential to Parks and Open Space to allow for campground development.

After reviewing Barrington’s proposal in December, council posted their intention to allow the rezoning and held a public hearing on January 14 to give Fernie residents a chance to weigh in.

As of January 11, the City had received nine emails and eight letters, all of which were in support of the RV park.

A letter submitted to the City by Melissa Mackay, owner of Grow Children’s and Maternity, supports ‘the application for the RV park, not only as a business owner, but also as someone who sits on the Board of Directors of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce.’ Mackay referenced ‘the extreme lack of accommodation for recreational vehicle users and campers’ and noted that during ‘the summer months there is a steady stream of people who are on a road trip with their RVs who come into my store asking where they can camp.’

Although Mike Delich, owner of Fernie Lodging Company, gave his support, he also raised several concerns; including potential smoke drifting from the campgrounds into town, the need to hold the developer accountable for community trails that run through the land, and potentially imposing a rent charge to go towards Tourism Fernie’s marketing funds.

Speaking at the public hearing, resident Bob Livsey brought up his own issue with the potential development. “I’ve been monitoring a heron rookery which is located right next to McDougall Creek on this property,” said Livsey. “My major concern is that once there are 200 campsites here that the human intrusion is going to be such that these herons will leave. They will abandon their young and they will relocate.”

Livsey went on to say, “I realize in this area, having worked at Fernie Provincial Park last year, that we do have quite a shortage of campsites. It’s something we need, so I’m not totally against it, I just wish that the location wasn’t intruding on this particular species.”

Barrington reassured council and the public in attendance that he is aware of animal populations in the area and that a wildlife identification study would be done before any development is done to a particular portion of the lot.

“I’m very mindful of the serious nature of the protection of that habitat and we do take it seriously,” stated Barrington. “We do believe that we’ve taken such steps that are necessary to anticipate a thorough review and what the appropriate action might be to preserve that habitat, as well as the other habitats of animal, bird, and fish populations that might be affected by any development.”

A proposed Section 219 Covenant is set to be registered on-title of the property to deal with several of the issues brought up by the public during the hearing, and previously by council; including the presence of on-site wetlands and tree preservation areas that require protection from development, development on a site situated in the 200-year floodplain of the Elk River, the sufficient grade and width of access roads, and emergency vehicle access.

Council voted to refer the bylaw amendment to rezone the property to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for approval, however they will not consider adopting the bylaw until the Section 219 Covenant is registered on-title.