Kitimat council wants to ensure there’s continued recreation access to areas where Skeena Sawmills has roads and bridges to locations in which it no longer logs.
The Terrace-based sawmill logs in and around the Kitimat area under provincial government licences which require it to take roads and bridges out of service when no longer needed.
In speaking to council on November 6, Skeena Sawmills woodlands manager Greg Demille said the company adheres to safety and environmental mandated standards as part of its licence obligations.
“The challenge we always have with recreation access are the obligations under certain scenarios with safety concerns and environmental considerations – culverts blowing out or landslides,” he said.
But the company’s road and bridge network also provides opportunities for ATVers, hunters, campers, anglers and others to gain access to the backcountry.
And that has Kitimat mayor Phil Germuth wanting the company to meet with recreational and other users, including the Haisla, to explore ways to retain access.
“People move here for one or two years for a job but when they arrive they find out what kind of area we have for outdoor recreation and what a great place we have, and so they stay,” explained Germuth.
“So before the company begins to deactivate roads and bridges we want to bring the groups together.”
Germuth said there may be situations where bridges may no longer be safe for vehicles but are safe for ATVs.
He mentioned the bridge at Skidoo Creek which while structurally sound, was affected by this fall’s heavy rains.
“I’m hoping that before it is fully deactivated, something can be done so that it is still safe for the ATVs,” Germuth continued.
Germuth is particularly interested in keeping open access to a camping area popularly called Kitimat Main.
“It’s a beautiful location, far enough away from the main road. Your dogs can run loose and you don’t have to worry about your kids,” he said.
If Germuth is interested in keeping access open in areas where Skeena Sawmills no longer logs, the same is true for new logging areas.
That’s the case with a road the company is building to Jesse Lake.
“Jesse Lake is just a beautiful place,” said Germuth of its recreational attributes.
In sketching out his plan to bring Skeena Sawmills together with recreational users and groups, Germuth said the Kitimat community has experience in working with industrial companies.
“LNG Canada, for instance, has helped out Kitimat and the Haisla,” said Germuth. “I think what we are looking for is a happy compromise for everyone.”
Demille acknowledged the concern within Kitimat’s outdoor recreation community regarding the Skidoo Creek Bridge, but added that safety must be considered.
“The underlying structure was severely compromised,” he said as a result of the October heavy rains.
And before any possible plan to keep the bridge can be discussed, an engineering report is needed, Demille said.
Demille said his presentation to council was the start of what’s to be a longer conversation about recreation access.
“We’re going to meet with those [user] groups to see how we can come up with solutions,” he said.