Princeton council votes to open parts of KVR to motorized vehicles

Sections of the KRV trail through Princeton will be opened next year to off road vehicles, following a unanimous vote by town council Monday night.

However, there will be no continuous pass through the community, owing to a decision by two provincial ministries to keep ATVs and other motorized vehicles off the short stretch of land passing underneath the Highway 3 bridge.

“I’m pleased with what happened tonight,” said Ed Vermette, president of the Princeton ATV Club and chair of the adhoc trail committee formed by council last fall.

However he admitted: “it’s not exactly what we were hoping for.”

Related: Petition fights ATV bylaw

According to CAO Lyle Thomas, who prepared a series of trail recommendations for council to consider, the sections of trail – from the tunnel to just before Subway and from Rainbow Lake to an area near Two Rivers Park – will open in the spring.

The project is a trial, he said, for one year and town staff will monitor the results.

“There’s a bit of work to be done in preparation,” including creating signage and developing a code of conduct and ethics for trail use.

The trail will be open to motorized vehicles only during daylight hours.

Use of the KVR has been a contentious issue in the community since 2011, when council declared the Princeton section of the KVR, which is part of the Trans Canada Trail, non-motorized.

In 2015 a different council passed a bylaw making it illegal to operate motorized vehicles on the trail. It was a decision which sparked organized protests including a petition and a rally outside council chambers with hundreds of off road enthusiasts attending.

Trail use was a much-debated issue in the 2018 municipal election, and one of the current council’s first acts was to strike a trail committee to explore multi-use trail options.

Related: Princeton council strikes committee to explore motorized vehicles on the KVR

Thomas said finding a trail solution was difficult “knowing there are two sides to the story.”

Before the motion was passed Monday, councillors received and filed a petition with 88 signatures to keep the trail non-motorized, presented in June by former councillor and local restaurateur Jerome Tjerkstra.

“This was interpreted by staff that there are still two very passionate sides to this topic,” Thomas acknowledged.

Related: Former councillor has harsh words for Princeton mayor and trail committee

Thomas said staff was taken by surprise when it was learned they would not be able to connect the sections of trail by using the Highway 3 bridge underpass.

“We didn’t full grasp that at first,” he said. “When we came to the underpass we wanted to review our license of occupation and when you read our licence…it comes to Highway 3 and stops and then starts on the other side.”

Both the transportation and forestry ministries were adamant the underpass remain non-motorized.

Related: MLA throws full support behind shared use trails

“They were very clear that they are not interested in granting passage under the bridge,” said Thomas. “They just don’t want it. They are worried about liability and they are worried about erosion.”

The underpass will remain open for walkers, cyclists and horseback riders, he added, and applications can be made to the province to use that part of the trail for special permitted events.

“We will keep going until we see a continuous trail,” said Vermette. “It was squashed tonight but it is not dead. We will continue to lobby.”

Vermette said allowing ATVs into town “is a win for the business community.” The ATV club will work with town staff to organize and pay for prepping the trail for spring.

“We have funding available for this.”

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andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com

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