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An OTRA member out for a ride




For Immediate Release 8:00 AM July 15th 2009
Contact: Ken Umbarger 250-878-9111 kenumbarger@royallepage.ca

Area Closed

Okanagan Trail Riders Association (OTRA) see some positive progress in addressing water quality issues and in particular achieving a sustainable trail and bridged crossing of Bald Range Creek. To date the group has raised over $8000 with matching Federal stimulus funds. The target is $20,000 and the group has been given an extension of one month for the special matching funds. The group credits staff at the Ministry of Tourism and Integrated Land Management Bureau along with Regional District Westside Representative Jim Edgson for supporting OTRA’s efforts to manage motorized recreation. In addition they have received “letters of support” from Ron Cannan MLA, Integrated Land Management Bureau, Friends of the South Slopes, La Casa Resort and the Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Council for funding sustainable trail development and rehabilitation.

In response to media articles last week OTRA remains convinced that a previously approved corridor trail between the 8 km staging area and the 12 km staging area is the best way to protect water quality and rider safety. The existing trail has been temporarily closed while assessments are undertaken but Ken Umbarger President of OTRA has notified the officials with Lakeview Irrigation District (LID), West Kelowna Mayor & Council and the Ministry of Tourism that the present situation is dangerous and unacceptable in the long term. The closure of this trail is effectively encouraging riders to connect to these two areas via Bear Main. This activity is very dangerous due to heavy logging truck traffic states Umbarger. What’s needed is a “Can Do” attitude and a spirit of “Win-Win”. Water quality and rider safety can both be addressed. It is unacceptable that a campaign led by LID be permitted to frustrate an agreement to move riders through this basin in an environmentally responsible way according to Umbarger. It is essential to complete a sustainable corridor trail & bridge along with the remediation of user created trails in this sensitive Bald Range Creek tributary. In 2008 a plan was submitted to LID by OTRA and private funds provided by the Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Association were allocated to mitigate these risks to water quality. LID then stated publically that no crossing would be supported. Umbarger forwarded minutes of a meeting facilitated by the Integrated Land Management Bureau to Mayor Findlater to back up OTRA’s assertions an agreement between LID and OTRA did exist. In the media last week Don Dobson (a consultant for LID) denied any such agreement. This crossing must happen with or without the support of LID according to OTRA.

The thwarted proposal was recently forwarded to Mayor Doug Findlater and OTRA continues to press the appropriate Ministries to move responsibly to implement this solution to both water quality and rider safety. Mayor Doug Findlater has recently agreed to schedule a tour of the sustainable trails OTRA has been developing and see how OTRA and the Ministry of Tourism are implementing the transition from an un-managed “free for all” to a managed and sustainable approach. "Getting the West Kelowna Mayor and Council informed of this transition is key", states Adrian Van Nieuwkerk the OTRA Vice President who encouraged this tour. Umbarger states that "A focus on solutions vs. LID’s approach of finger pointing over past unmanaged practices is long overdue and just plain good leadership. When all the facts and science are disseminated objectively we believe Council will see the value in an army (320 members) of volunteers managing the area. Expecting the government to throw money at enforcement without user stewardship/management would be very poor alternative".

OTRA has requested meetings with newly elected MLA Ben Stewart along with Minister of Tourism Kevin Krueger, Minister of Forests and Range Pat Bell and Minister of Health Kevin Falcon to review the plan to manage Bear Creek. "This is about more than just a war over a bridge in a small creek", states Umbarger. "It is about a model for the entire Province to manage motorized recreation which is long overdue. The benefits environmentally, socially and economically for our Province are too significant to ignore."

How much water are we talking about?

Ken Umbarger – President of Okanagan Trail Riders putting the Bald Range Creek in Perspective (4 Feet Wide and 4 Inches Deep)

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