Group responds to gravel pit bid

Stop the BX Creek Pit Committee calling for public support

On Nov. 10, a letter from Klayton Mertion appeared on these pages bemoaning the fact that his BX Creek ravine neighbours were objecting to his efforts to “make the property we purchased landscaped and manicured to make a future home for our family.”

We as a large group of neighbours did not bother to respond as we know full well that his presence in the BX ravine is only about gravel extraction. This view was confirmed on Nov. 22 when his mandatory Mines Act public notice was published in The Morning Star which starts a 30-day period of public input before The Ministry of Energy and Mines issues a permit which they do in virtually every case.

Now, this is only possible because in 2003, for some completely unknown reason, gravel extraction became a permitted use within the country residential zone. Think about that. If you bought in CR prior to 2003, you were absolutely guaranteed  that a gravel pit could not be established on your fence line. Realizing this, the current RDNO board – thanks to Mike Macnabb and RDNO staff – quickly and unanimously passed a bylaw removing mineral extraction as a permitted use in Areas B and C. But this application is, unfortunately,  grandfathered.

While the vast majority of the 475 residential properties in a one-kilometre radius of this site had this guarantee when they purchased their properties, the bylaw, as it was written, allowed gravel extraction when Mr. Mertion purchased his property.

While we have decided sympathy for his position, we respectfully suggest the guarantee thousands of country residential property owners were given to not have a gravel pit established in their neighbourhood equals or betters his right to establish one. As such, this is not a NIMBY fight. Gravel pits have no place in residential neighbourhoods and the amended bylaw again reflects that universally held belief.

Permitted use is not interchangeable with guaranteed use and he should have anticipated explosive push back on a plan to establish what is likely the most industrial, noisy, dirty and potentially harmful of all commercial enterprises: in a well established residential neighbourhood, in a watershed, along a fish bearing creek, in the Agricultural Land Reserve,  bordering two popular hiking trails promoted by Tourism Vernon and connected to BX Elementary School by a narrow, twisty road with no walking or biking shoulders.

The BX Creek ravine is a magical place. Seen from the air it is a tiny ribbon of green which houses the only west coast rainforest ecosphere in the Okanagan Valley. Heavily treed with majestic cedars and blanketed with many varieties of ferns & mosses it has been a wildlife migration route for thousands of years and only in the last year or so have we seen the regeneration of fish stocks as far north as the lower trail entrance.

We think we would all agree that we have enough gravel sources in the North Okanagan. We don’t need another one scarring our distinctive landscapes. What we do need is to protect those areas that add quality to our lives and attract tourism interest from afar. We need to do that for ourselves, and we have a responsibility to protect them for future generations as well.

The BX Creek ravine needs your help now if it is to retain its natural character and possibly even survive.

Please write or email the Ministry of Energy and Mines and tell them that you do not want a gravel pit approved in, or anywhere close to the BX Creek ravine.

Please also tell them that you want MEM Minister Bill Bennett to intervene in the public interest pursuant to section 11 of the B.C. Mines Act.

Without an overwhelming chorus of opposition from the citizens of the North Okanagan, this application will likely receive automatic approval. Every voice will count. It doesn’t have to be exotic or lengthy, but it does have to be received by them by Dec. 23.

Their contact info is;

Chief Inspector of Mines,

Ministry of Energy and Mines, South Central Region,

2nd Floor, 441 Columbia St.,

Kamloops, B.C., V2C 2T3

or by e-mail;

Blair Peden,

Stop the BX Creek Pit Committee