A CP Rail spokesperson says the controversy surrounding the new prohibition on longtime rafting companies crossing their tracks near Golden, B.C. to access the Kicking Horse River is limited to that section of the track.
The Revelstoke Mountaineer contacted a CP spokesperson to see if the railway had plans for further actions in the B.C./Alberta region, where railway lines run next to rivers popular with kayakers and mountains popular with backcountry users.
CP Rail spokesperson Salem Woodrow said the closure started with a Transport Canada inspection, when a federal inspector noted rafting guides and their guests crossing the tracks. She said CP was complying with orders from the federal inspector. “The fact is that these companies are dangerously trespassing,” Woodrow told the Mountaineer.
CP Rail had been in discussion with the rafting companies about alternatives, such as creating a grade crossing at the location, but a meeting last week with owners of three rafting companies and local, regional, provincial and federal politicians, ended with CP saying they were no longer considering a crossing.
@RevelstokeMTNR been working with community over the last month, and have written the transport minister on the issue. On a call now w/ CP
— Wayne Stetski (@WayneStetski) March 31, 2016
Woodrow said the location wasn’t safe, “so we have declined their request to install a grade crossing.”
The decision kicked off protests. The raft guides note operators have been crossing there for forty years without incident, bringing thousands of tourists to Golden and the region each year. They disagree that a solution such as a grade crossing at the Mountain Subdivision Mile 30 location can’t be found.
The protests include an online petition that has gathered more than 4,000 signatures at the time this story was posted.
With rafting season about to start, there is deep concern the prohibition will mean a big hit for the local economy, especially in Golden. The rafting tours through the Lower Canyon area of the river end in the mountain community, bringing lots of summer tourism activity. A local raft operator estimated the companies that work that section of the river bring about 15,000 guests per season.
In a statement emailed to the Mountaineer following our telephone interview, Woodrow said there wasn’t a workable solution. “CP understands the frustration that the community may have regarding this issue. CP had attempted to find a solution that would allow rafters to cross safely and legally, but unfortunately there is no solution that will meet CP’s legal, risk and regulatory requirements.”
CP did confirm that they would be meeting with stakeholders again, and that meeting is set to happen on Mar. 31 in Golden, where mayor Ron Oszust continues to advocate for a crossing solution.
The CP Rail spokesperson noted it’s illegal to cross a railway line other than at a designated crossing, and those caught can be charged with trespassing. Woodrow said trespassers can be charged federally, leading to fines as high as $10,000 and potential jail time. However, in B.C., people are typically charged under B.C. legislation, which comes with a $115 fine, Woodrow said.