The Pemberton Valley Trails Association and Lilwat Nation have come to an agreement that will allow continued public non-motorized access to the popular biking and hiking trails in the Mosquito Lake area outside of Pemberton. Ownership of that area, which was formerly Crown land, was recently given to the Lilwat Nation and Mount Currie Band.
The area is well-used by local residents. In addition to mountain biking and hiking, the area is also popular with horse riders and hunters, and user conflicts have been reported including an incident in the fall of 2004 when a hunter shot and killed a dog belonging to Pemberton mountain bikers.
As a result, the original short-term discussion over access evolved into a long-term planning issue.
The Lilwat had expressed concern in the past about new trail building in the area, which they say fall on sensitive cultural and archeological sites. They were also concerned about the degradation and erosion of habitat from improperly located or constructed trails.
According to the agreement:
The PVTA will recognize the Lilwat Nation on trail signage and promotional material, including a new trail map being published this spring
Both parties will work together to reduce negative impacts of existing trails on Lilwat interest, and plan together any future trails and greenspaces to avoid further negative impacts
The Lilwat will be invited to have a representative on the board of the PVTA
Both parties will work together to achieve a Parks and Recreation function within the region
The parties will work together to reduce conflict among user groups
A portion of proceeds from sales of the new trail map will go towards increasing mountain biking opportunities for Lilwat youth
Public, non-motorized use of trails on Lilwat private property near Mosquito Lake will be allowed to continue on an interim basis while the Lilwat plan the future use of their land
The groups will work together with other levels of government to establish a five-year plan for trails in the Pemberton Valley
In a press release, PVTA chair Rod MacLeod said "although there were fears expressed by many trail users at the time this land deal became public it quickly became apparent in our discussions that we had many more interests in common than we had differences."
According to Liz Jones, the director of lands and resources for the Mount Currie band of the Lilwat Nation, the agreement was the result of a series of talks with the PVTA beginning in the summer when the province announced plans to transfer ownership of the land to First Nations.
"There were quite a few meetings, and every meeting we made a little more progress which is reflected in this agreement," she said.
The land has not officially become part of Lilwat territory, and future uses will be decided by a best use analysis of the land. She says there is a possibility that some trails will be retained as part of regional district zoning, but ultimately the purpose of the land has always been as an economic resource.
"There are a lot of trails in the area, and all of them are illegal none are sanctioned by the Ministry of Forests but now everyone wants to keep them," she said. "Its important to remember that when it was a woodlot that the trails were discouraged (by the owner) and were impacted from time to time by logging activities so its not like they were ever there forever."
The goal will be to use the lands for economic development for the Lilwat, but Jones said it will likely be used for a mix of activities.
The Lilwat will have a section on the new trail map to explain their issues and concerns for the area, and how riders and hikers need to be respectful of their lands and private property.
"The PVTA have been very proactive," said Jones.