Barnhartvale Horse and Hiker Trail Preservation Society fights to keep trails closed

By Vanessa Ybarra
August 9, 2017 - 6:11pm

KAMLOOPS — In early July, The Barnhartvale Horse and Hiker Trail Preservation Society closed its trails due to the extreme wildfire risk.

While the move has helped protect animals and nearby homes from the threat of fire, it has caused some backlash from members of the riding community.

One resident has even reached out to the ministry, asking the trails to be re-opened.

That move isn't going over well with some.

In Barnhartvale, trail conditions are the driest Yvonne Prokopetz and Joan Arcan have seen in years.

"I have witnessed my horses coming down, trotting over the rocks" said Prokopetz," said President of the Barnhartvale Horse and Hiker Trail Preservation Society. "It's so dry, sparks will fly off the hooves."

"I've talked to some of the neighbours within the community and they are saying they're staying off the trails, they realize there's danger up there," said Arcan, Secretary for the Barnhartvale Horse and Hiker Trail Preservation Society.

As President of the Barnhartvale Horse and Hiker Trail Preservation Society, Prokopetz made the decision to close the societies five trails at the same time city parks were shut down in early July due to the fire risk.

"I looked across at the Equestrian Centre and looked at the Barnhartvale Hall that's 100 years old and all the houses nearby, and I thought 'I'm gonna lock those gates."

The Barnhartvale Horses and Hikers Trail Preservation Society pays $500 a year in liability insurance and invests hundreds of dollars a year in maintenace on the trails, another reason they felt the need to protect the land.

A few weeks ago an equestrian rider from the Equistrian Club next to the trails reached out to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to complain about the closure, with the Ministry contacting the society shortly after.

"I got this request last Thursday from Tim O'Rourke," said Prokopetz. "He said that I had overstepped my authority and I was to unlock the gates immediately or run the risk of losing our license of occupation."

The societies 20 kilometres of trails are on Crown land.

While the group holds a license to occupy the land, rules state only the Province has the authority to close it off from the public.

The society is hoping for a grace period due to the dry conditions.

"I would like for them to realize we wouldn't do this without thoughtfulness and that there could be something to come from this otherwise," said Arcan.

The Kamloops 4X4 Club also holds a user agreement in the Lac Du Bois Grasslands Area.

Club President Charles Denbigh says he supports the province having ultimate control of Crown land.

"These things are in place so we don't have people doing things willy nilly," said Denbigh. "Just deciding that things are going to be a certain way would be problematic."

As for the society, Arcan, Prokopetz and the rest of the members will vote on whether to re-open the gate Wednesday tonight.

Prokopetz's ultimate hope is that the society be granted more authority to protect an area they've worked so hard to build.

"I dont want to lose these trails, " said Prokopetz. "We've worked too hard for them and they're really important for the community."

 

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