Back to top

Emergency meeting energizes supporters of Cottonwood Lake Recreational Area

RDCK Area G Rep Hans Cunningham addresses the crowd as (standing from left) Nelson City Councilors Rik Logtenberg, Keith Page, Jesse Woodward and organizer Andrew McBurney listen. — Bruce Fuhr, The Nelson Daily

Concerned citizens upset over the potential logging of private lands surrounding Cottonwood Regional Park and the Nelson Nordic Apex Ski Trails jammed the Rod and Gun Club Wednesday night to formulate a plan on how to stop the owner from continuing to rape the hillside south of Nelson.

The standing room only crowd listened to experts in avalanche control and grizzly bears, a biologist on the effects logging has on wildlife, a hydrologist, as well as representatives from the Nelson Cycling Club, Rod and Gun Club, Nordic Ski Club, councilors, Jesse Woodward, Keith Page and Rik Logtenberg and RDCK Area G Director Hans Cunningham.

Speakers reiterated the importance of protecting the wetlands and wildlife cooridor surrounding Cottonwood Lake, the dangers associated with steep slopes after logging in other parts of the province and the economic benefits of the area.

The meeting, chaired by former West Kootenay EcoSociety Director David Reid, was hastily organized to find an alternative to plans by the private owner of lands south of Nelson to log cut blocks near Cottonwood Lake and Apex ski trails. 

On-going negotiations between the Regional District of Central Kootenay and the private owner has found common ground to cease logging until the spring. However, bargaining continues to determine a final price for the lands as well as actual funds to allow complete the sale. 

“I think we really did,” said organizer Andrew McBurney when asked if the emergency meeting achieved any of his goals.

“Some of the issues raised were hard to clarify, which was frustrating to the crowd on a lot of different levels. But this is a very important issue as was reinforced by the number of people in the room, and how compassionate they were.”

Organizers stopped people at the door minutes before the start of the meeting due to fire regulations, forcing many to stand outside listening to speakers relaying the importance of managing the timber on the hillsides to the north and south of Cottonwood Park and the Apex Ski Trails. The information only reinforced the feeling of everyone in the room.

But the real important issue was how to move forward.

Nelson Councilor Rik Logtenberg raised the issue of a Crowd-Funding campaign that would go a long way to getting governments and the Columbia Basin Trust to support the purchase. This was an idea RDCK Area E rep Ramona Faust supported.

“That’s the best thing that could happen now . . . set up a Crowd-Funding initiative because with all of the people that have friends and acquaintances and Kootenay expats, I think it would go viral pretty quick and demonstrate to local governments that this is important and would raise some money and make people feel empowered,” Faust explained.

Many in the crowd raised concerns not enough was being done by government — an issue the three Nelson City Councilors danced around as not to reveal confidential, in-camera discussions.

However, Faust, and Cunningham, said the RDCK has been working very hard since the summer to deal with this problem.

“(RDCK) has been very committed all along,” Faust said.

“It’s been more than just being in-camera,” Faust added. “We’ve come to an agreement with the (owner) not to disclose (information from the meetings). We’ve been serious. (Owner) has been serious. In the end, every entity has to decide what their priorities are.”

As the meeting concluded, Reid directed interested parties to meet to discuss how to proceed leaving everyone with a sense of optimism leaving the building that something positive would come out of this meeting.

“The important thing is to keep this going . . . time, as Rik Logtenberg said, is of the essence,” McBurney said. “We’re talking weeks here. And we can do this. But people need to realize time, time, time . . . there really isn’t any.”

McBurney thought the Crowd-Funding idea was something the group should pursue.

“I think that’s a really good option,” he said. “But like Rik said, there are Federal grants out there . . .  and the Columbia Basin Trust, that’s another very good avenue for funds.”

“But we need to get that initial little kick starter in hand to bring it to them and say our community has spoken and this is a real deal . . . we mean it.”

Selkirk College instructor Doris Hausleitner spoke to the crowd regarding the importance of preserving the wetlands surrounding Cottonwood Park. — Bruce Fuhr, The Nelson Daily

Deb MacKillop of the Nelson Cycling Club explains some of the amazing mountain biking trails surrounding Cottonwood Park.