Ah, yes. The historic KVR. It was opened in 1915 and the first section to be abandoned was the Copper Mountain spur line in 1957. The last train to come through this area was in 1989. Most of the former rail line has become part of the Trans-Canada Trail. In Princeton a 5-kilometre stretch cuts through the south section of the community between Highway 3 and the Similkameen River and then runs along the river and Highway 5A up to Weyerhaeuser crossing Old Hedley Road.
The Town of Princeton passed a bylaw a couple years ago banning motorized traffic on the paved section that covers the area I’ve already described. The Princeton Parks and Recreational Strategy that was published in November 2013 describes and examines many walking trails that already exist within the community. It also mentions the KVR frequently pointing out that one of the main issues with the trail is, “User Conflicts: motorized vs. non-motorized.”
The ORV Select Committee
I give the Town of Princeton credit for trying to spearhead some kind of solution to the motorized/non-motorized issue when they requested applications for interested participants to sit on a committee to work out a plan. I sent in a request to be a member of the committee representing the Chamber of Commerce. On November 8, 2016 I was confirmed as a Member and attended my first meeting November 23, 2016.
The terms of reference for the very first meeting stressed that the 5-kilometre stretch of the KVR that passes through town was off the table. That’s correct. The committee is not supposed to acknowledge that a possible solution could come from the existing route. We’ve kept veering ‘round it ever since. Clearly our mandate was to create a bypass route. In my mind, a bypass is an alternate route that takes traffic away from something and not closer to it.
Is There A Solution?
I’m not convinced that the concept of a bypass is going to serve the community in any positive manner. I actually see the whole ‘problem’ as something greater than motorized vs. non-motorized. I view it as an issue between responsible and irresponsible trail users. We live 100-feet away from the KVR on Burton Avenue and have been here for several decades. My home office faces the KVR and the only noises we have ever heard is from dirt bikes.
We have walked the section closest to our home often. I will use it as a ‘shortcut’ to get to downtown. We are non-motorized users. The solution to the situation has nothing to do with a bypass as far as I’m concerned. I feel that the solution is right in front of us and that we need to pool our resources in order to achieve the goal of connecting the trail from the Tunnel to Weyerhaeuser. However, it means all user groups getting together and working together instead of against each other. I know, it sounds a tad impossible but I think it can be done.
Responsible vs. Irresponsible
I have encountered a fair cross section of users when I have been on the KVR. I have met responsible users and irresponsible users. Those who do not clean up after their dogs are irresponsible. Those who rip along the trail on dirt bikes are irresponsible. Those who have driven cars on it are irresponsible. The only ATV users I’ve encountered over the years were courteous and responsible. I can say the same about snowmobilers I have encountered.
I remember two of them several years ago who met me near where the Roundhouse currently sits. They moved over to one side of the trail, shut off their machines, removed their head gear so I could see who they were and they waited for me to walk past. This was long before the section in town was paved or had lights on it. I have encountered friendly horseback riders, cross-country skiers and even users riding mobility scooters avoiding riding on the street.
One paved encounter I had with ATV users happened near where the Caboose currently sits. The ATV drivers were so quiet I wasn’t aware of their presence until one rode alongside me at the same speed I was walking. The only bad encounters I have had are few and far between and fall under the category of irresponsible users. I’ve also had dirt bikers hop off their bikes and walk them past me in the Tunnel as we met each other midway. I think it can be shared by all.
I feel that there are several things that have to take place in order to make the KVR a multi-use trail through the Town of Princeton. I believe that an actual door-to-door survey should be conducted with residents and businesses located along the KVR between the Tunnel and Weyerhaeuser. The survey should also extend to nearby homes and businesses not directly alongside the KVR but within 100 or so feet of it. The survey should also include all user groups and be designed to seek feedback on a motorized or non-motorized trail.
The easy solution from where I am sitting is a twinning of the existing trail through town. It could allow for motorized and non-motorized use with minimal conflict. As my wife Brenda tells me, the railway engineers did not purposely lay track in the most difficult route possible. So, when you consider that they used the path of least resistance, why is there so much resistance to sharing this path? I am not convinced that the problems are all related to ATVers/ORVers. I’m sure that a twinned system will give an opportunity for shared use where everyone gets along.
As for policing the trail is concerned, I put the onus on all user groups including ATV/ORV users to get involved. There should be regular educational programs or seminars on rules and regulations as related to the recent changes in the ORV Act. The local ATV groups should set the example by plating their rigs and outfitting them with the proper gear to make them legal/roadworthy – if they haven’t already done so. They should also establish a working relationship with RCMP and put together some kind of plan that would address highway crossings and ticketing of violators. In fact, ATVers on the KVR could actually become a sort of Citizens on Patrol in the region.
Petitions and data related to how much the BC economy is fed by motorized or non-motorized tourism aside, I think the KVR through Princeton can be shared by all. In fact, it should be shared by all. But in order for this to actually take place, it has to be done responsibly and not as a means to ‘prove something.’ I think the Town of Princeton was right in forming the ORV Select Committee but I think the mandate is incorrect. There are more than enough experts at that table who could easily make the trail a shared transportation corridor. I’m also sure that most of the people sitting at that table with me would agree.
Ultimately the final decision has to come from you. I am a firm believer in community-driven decisions. If the majority of those surveyed say that the KVR should remain non-motorized, then I would support that knowing the people affected the most – users and those living and working in that part of town – had made their thoughts known. I would also support the decision to twin the KVR if that was what the survey results showed. To me, good decisions include feedback from those directly affected by the results that would come from those decisions. It also means that if we all work together instead of against each other, we can make our community better for all.
My name is George Elliott. I have been in the Media Industry since 1978. I spent 23 years in Broadcasting and worked in a total of six different radio stations located in southern British Columbia Canada during my career. In 2000 I switched gears and moved into the Print Media Industry at a small town, local weekly community newspaper. In 2004 I bought the paper and operated it with my wife, Brenda until July 2016 when we closed it. I launched a freelance web content and article writing business from my home in January 2014.