Kinnaird Bluffs get boost as vision expands
“From-ruin-to-riches” may end up being the theme of the Kinnaird Bluffs story, after concerned residents banded together to save the site and are now contemplating loftier goals than mere preservation.
Vince Hempsall, of The Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers (TAWKROC), told Castlegar city council (at its regular meeting Monday night) that the non-profit association will be purchasing the site at its assessed value of $57,000 so that the area, which has been a popular recreation venue since at least the 1960s, will be available to the public in perpetuity.
He said the potential for the privately-owned property to be sold to developers or even as a quarry was an alarming one which spurred outdoor enthusiasts to action.
“It’s looking fantastic – we’ve made an offer, the offer has been signed off, we’re just doing due dilligence now,” he said, adding much of this is thanks to an ‘angel investor’ who has offered to loan the group the $57,000. He also said a fundraiser last Friday at the Lion’s Head Pub netted the group $4,000 in a single night, which is more than a little encouraging. In fact, the group has already brought in a total of $20,000 toward the project.
But what began as a campaign merely to save and protect the site has now become a drive to see it as a park or even a recreation corridor for the area.
“We’re looking for buy-in from the city in terms of creating a green space or park – this could just be the tip of the iceberg,” Hempsall said, adding they’re not looking for money from the city, but rather a shared vision that would see the area networked in to existing local parks, trails and greenspaces. “We’re starting to see an influx of rock-climbing tourism in the area. There’s a real opportunity here for the city to play this up.”
Carol Andrews, with Selkirk College’s Forest Technology program, also said the college has a strong connection to the area, as it offers unique habitats and biodiversity from which students have been learning for decades. (The blue-listed, meaning at-risk, Western Skink makes its home on the Bluffs, for example.
“And it’s popular with bikers, runners, dog-walkers, hikers,” she said. “It’s an historically very well-used area.”
Raising enough money to purchase the land isn’t the only barrier, though.
“There are currently two different covenants on this piece of property,” Hempsall told council. “They are hugely restrictive – you can’t even cut down a branch.”
City director of Planning and Development Phil Markin explained the group would need to hire a geotech engineer to sign off on any changes or amendments to the covenant, before his department could recommend said changes be allowed.
Still, the tenor of the discussion was very positive. Andrews pointed out that nearby Emerald Green residents, “are really looking forward to the Bluffs becoming part of a larger park or recreation area”.
“I think it’s exciting,” said councillor Deb McIntosh, adding the project will be brought to the city’;s next Planning and Development Committee meeting for further discussions and recommendations.