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Ashcroft Slough Society receives support in quest for access

West Coast Environmental Law has received funding to help society try to regain access to slough
In October 2020, Fraser-Nicola NDP candidate Aaron Sumexheltza (third from l) was at the Ashcroft Slough to hear from members of the Ashcroft Slough Society about lack of access to the site. The society is now receiving help from West Coast Environmental Law. (from l) Dora Winwood; River Winwood; Aaron Sumexheltza; Gloria Mertens; Daniel Collett; Marina Papais. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

After the Ashcroft slough became an inland port called the Ashcroft Terminal in 2008, it has been the Ashcroft Slough Society’s goal to find a safe, legal way for people to enjoy it again, and the group has recently received funding to assist them in their quest.

The Ashcroft Slough Society was formed in September of 2020, and they have been advocating for the people in the surrounding area to regain accesses to the slough.

In 1999 the land adjacent to the slough — on the Thompson River just east of Ashcroft — was purchased, and in 2008 work began on the creation of the terminal to service CN and CP. Access to the slough was from Evans Road, a public road that extends to the terminal property and which was historically used not only to access the slough but also to reach other ranches and homesteads further up the river. When construction was in full swing, access to the slough via trails was eliminated. However, safe alternative access has not been provided.

In order to get to the slough now, the public has to cross the Ashcroft Terminal industrial land at Evans Road, which has been gated off in order to limit access to the private property for safety reasons. Another access route is to go under a railway bridge and hike along the river below the high water mark, an arduous and dangerous trek for a lot of people.

However, CN Rail has indicated that walking on land under train bridges is illegal. Patty Kinvig, assistant terminal manager of the Ashcroft Terminal, has said that CN has officially sent a letter saying it will “not entertain any crossing requests over, under anything at our location, whether at our private property or adjacent to our property.”

In 2020 the Ashcroft Terminal asked for volunteers to be part of a Community Working Group to look at ways to give back something to the community for having taken away access to the slough. The official position of the terminal has been that access has “never been legal”, so alternative access is not something they have to provide, a position that the Slough Society “respectfully and strongly” disagrees with.

Now a local travel company has stepped in with a $50,000 donation to help with two environmental projects in the B.C. Interior, including access to the slough.

Wells Gray Tours made the donation recently to West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL) after an extensive search for appropriate projects. “I interviewed several organizations that focus on conservation and the environment and was intrigued by two issues presented by West Coast,” said Roland Neave, owner and founder of Wells Gray Tours.

One project involves the Kamloops Area Preservation Association, which has been advocating for improved monitoring of effluent discharged from the closed Ajax copper-gold mine, located just south of Kamloops at the headwaters of Peterson Creek. The stream and its aquifer serve as a source of drinking water for a suburb of Kamloops and an RV campground, and it is also a fish-bearing creek. A report has shown that the current monitoring conditions of the permit are woefully inadequate, and there is increasing contamination of Peterson Creek and its aquifer from the waste rock of the Ajax Mine. WCEL has been assisting KAPA with legal advice and advocating to the provincial government for action to stop the ongoing pollution.

The second environmental project involves the Ashcroft Slough. A press release notes that “The two railways, Canadian Pacific and Canadian National, want to expand a rail yard that would impact a natural area in a bend of the Thompson River called the Ashcroft Slough.

“Historical access to this area has been cut off, and the Ashcroft Slough Society is working on an interesting legal case with support from WCEL and the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria.”

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