Speculation that work on Cosens Bay Road will result in a two-lane highway through Kal Lake Park is just that, speculation, according to government officials.
The Ministry of Transportation says it has no such plans for the road. All it wants to do is make the dirt road a bit safer to travel on and save itself some maintenance costs.
“We have to maintain the road and we’re hearing from residents and users, and our road maintenance contractors, that it is not safe,” said Erik Lachmuth, area manager of roads for the ministry.
Lachmuth repeatedly explained this to some of the dozens of individuals who packed the Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park open house Wednesday at the Prestige Hotel.
The open house detailed plans for the proposed boundary adjustment the ministry is seeking from B.C. Parks in order to establish a 30-metre-wide right-of-way where Cosens Bay Road traverses the park.
Passion over the issue was evident, as one individual raised his voice against the proposal, causing a response from some cabin owners.
Despite speculation, the right-of-way is simply to allow the ministry to work on the more rugged, treed section of the road, says Lachmuth.
“This isn’t what will spur development.”
The work includes brushing (cutting trees back next to road) to improve sightlines, digging new ditches for proper drainage so the road doesn’t wash out as easily, add gravel to build up the road and install additional road safety signage.
“Our annual maintenance costs on that road are really high,” said Lachmuth. “We have to bring in a grader three or four times more often than most other roads.”
Although the ministry is mandated to take care of the road, it cannot do such work without the boundary adjustment.
Phil McGrew lives eight months out of the year at his cabin at Cosens Bay and is eager to see improvements on the road, before someone is injured.
“This isn’t about a 30-metre-wide roadway, it’s about some minor fixes,” said McGrew. “We don’t want 30 metres of paved road either.”
Meanwhile, close to 1,500 signatures have been gathered on a Friends of Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park petition opposed to the plans.
And there are other groups concerned.
“We hike out there a lot and we’re very concerned about the wildlife,” said Robyn Thornton, with the North Okanagan Naturalists Club.
Miranda Williams has concerns that this work could pave the way for future upgrades, such as demands for power and sewer to the cabins.
“This is just the start,” she said, pointing out that the cabins used to be boat access only. “There shouldn’t even be a road.”
Meanwhile, many of the cabin owners say they too respect the park and do not want to upset the delicate natural environment, they just want safe access to their cabins.
“We are as much friends of the park as Friends of Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park are,” said Rob Johnston, spokesperson for 51 owners.
Consultations will continue through the spring of 2015, after which an environmental impact assessment will be done and final application is submitted to B.C. Parks. It must then be passed in the Legislature.