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Deep history moves plan forward to create next West Kootenay regional park

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
June 22nd, 2020

Another gem is ready to be added into the crown of West Kootenay as the newest regional park is on the verge of approval.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay board of directors approved the Lardeau Regional Park Management Plan (MP) at its last regular meeting in April, with the plan now being forwarded to the province for the final say.

The 150-page document covers an implementation plan — outlining the “priorities necessary to implement the park design concept” and operate the park over the next 10 years, said Mark Crowe, RDCK regional parks planner.

“The MP describes the environmental values of the park and considers environmental sensitivities,” he said in his report to the board, adding that a detailed biophysical inventory had not been completed for the park.

The park — located in the Village of Lardeau on the western shore of Kootenay Lake — has a deep history and connection to the people of the Lardeau, well beyond the last seven years in which the regional district was involved.

The 2.3-hectare waterfront park allows access to upper areas of the lake, and is suitable for day-use activities, relying upon its natural beauty as one of its calling cards.

But for over 12,000 years the land has been the historical land of Ktunaxa, Qatmuknek, Sinixt and Secwepemc First Nations, with prospectors coming to the area in the early 1900s in search of ore, with homesteaders arriving in 1912. Stern-wheelers serviced Lardeau from the late 1800s into the 1950s.

“The SS Moyie, which is moored today in neighbouring Kaslo, was retired in 1957 from service to Lardeau at which time she was the oldest stern-wheeler still in service in North America,” read an RDCK staff report.

Sporting a rich valley bottom farmland formed by the flow of the Duncan and Lardeau rivers through the flats at the head of Kootenay Lake, the area was eventually host to the arrival of people in the 1950s looking to “develop sustainable communities and to return to nature.”

In 1967 the Duncan Dam — the first of three Columbia River Treaty dams in the Canadian section of the Columbia River Basin — was built to control the flow of water from Duncan River into Kootenay Lake.

Over 10 years ago a move was made to construct a wharf near the existing boat launch and, although some money was raised to build the facility, insurance could not be obtained. This result brought the regional district into the picture, with the RDCK securing a license of occupation from the Ministry of Forest Land and Natural Resources in 2014.

The following year open houses were held on the establishment of a park in the area, but it revealed “a lack of consensus and a number of dissenting opinions regarding the creation of a regional park and construction of a wharf,” said Crowe in his report.

“Although a wharf has been considered throughout this process, it has been removed from the preferred park concept due to limited support and vocal opposition,” he said.

A consultant was engaged to continue the public engagement, out of which arose the current management plan.

Lardeau Park environment

The climate zone of the Lardeau Park is characterized by “an interior, continental climate with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers.”

The landscape is in the Interior Cedar-Hemlock geo-climatic zone, dominated by upland coniferous forests.

“However, it has the highest diversity of tree species in the entire province of British Columbia,” the RDCK report read.

The terrain is steeply sloped and mountainous, with the dominant tree species being western red cedar, western hemlock, white spruce and Engelmann spruce.

— Source: Regional District of Central Kootenay


There were a total of 197 species of birds identified by Lardeau residents in the Lardeau area and were recorded on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Bird website.

The species include Canada goose, mallard duck, common merganser, Vaux’s swift, wild turkey, Rufous hummingbird, spotted sandpiper, American kestrel and American robin.

Mammals observed by Lardeau residents and park users include long-tailed weasels, skunks, pack rats, shrews, coyotes, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and bats. There are also occasional sightings of cougars and lynx.

Water shrews are seen along Davis Creek during the winter months.

“It was noted that Richardson ground squirrels were becoming a problem due to their quick reproduction rates,” the report from RDCK staff noted.

Kootenay Lake is home to approximately 28 fish species, including rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, bass, Kokanee salmon, northern pike, whitefish and walleye.

— Source: Regional District of Central Kootenay

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