The Village of Ashcroft has denied a request by the Ashcroft Slough Society for a $500 grant-in-aid and a letter of support in its bid to gain safe, legal pedestrian access to the local slough.
The decision, on Nov. 9, followed a delegation from the Ashcroft Terminal’s Kleo Landucci and Patty Kinvig, and Lindsay Brumwell from CN Rail, who argued that the slough was on private property and slough users were putting themselves at risk by crossing the tracks to get there. Landucci cited the fact that someone had died four years ago after going to the slough, while CN noted on average there are 2,300-plus crossing accidents per year across Canada.
“This will be something we can no longer allow in any way,” said Landucci, chief commercial and corporate affairs officer for the Ashcroft Terminal. “We do respect and appreciate the passion for it. We’re really keen to work together to try to understand alternative locations that folks can enjoy but this is a very important issue.”
The Ashcroft Slough Society has been lobbying the Ashcroft Terminal and CN Rail to provide legal public access to the site, calling it “a national monument.” In October, spokesperson Daniel Collett asked council for the grant-in-aid and to act as the umbrella agency for the society — until it becomes a non-profit society in a year — to handle any grants it is able to secure for its advocacy work.
One of the grants would be used to do a feasibility study, and determine the number of annual slough users, which range from fishing, gold-panning, and family recreation activities to swimming in the summer and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
Mayor Barbara Roden had suggested council approve the grant-in-aid, with the provision that the slough society provide a budgeted list of how the money would be used.
“Lots of people have very happy memories of the slough,” Roden said. “I realize the importance of the slough to many people and the recreational opportunities and the fact the people on the Ashcroft Slough Society are working toward the benefit of the community and working to preserve a very beautiful part of our river.
“I still think there’s room for a slough society, and raising awareness of the slough is laudable.”
However, the rest of council rejected the motion, as well as the idea of a letter of support in principle, saying they cannot be seen as supporting the unlawful trespass across CN property or that of the Ashcroft Terminal.
Coun. Marilyn Anderson said she felt the village cannot support the slough at this time until it has a clearer picture of the society’s plan, while others argued they didn’t want to take on the liability.
“In light of safety, I think it’s best we go with this route,” Coun. Jonah Anstett said.
Collett said he was disappointed that the council did not support their cause of attaining safe legal pedestrian access to the slough, but they don’t intend to give up. He said the society’s membership continues to increase while the local school board has voted to support the cause in principle with a letter of support.
“Our goal is not outrageous, and we have already compromised generously by suggesting a location outside of the Ashcroft Terminal construction zone,” he said in an email. “This whole situation could easily become a ‘win-win’ if Ashcroft Terminal were to adopt the will of the people who adamantly oppose not having access to our beloved slough.”