The reluctance of some property owners in Pemberton to grant right-of-way across their land could effectively scuttle a project to build a pedestrian trail to Mount Currie.
The project, which in 2008 was financed by a provincial LocalMotion grant to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District totaling $52,111, is a two-kilometre trail between Mount Currie and Pemberton intended to provide safe passage for pedestrians and cyclists between the two communities.
But, said Pemberton Director and Mayor Jordan Sturdy, the project remains in the planning stage as its proponents try to negotiate with homeowners to develop rights-of-way that would allow such a trail to traverse their properties.
And without betraying any names, Sturdy said negotiations have stalled without agreement from any of the property owners. Without those agreements, the trail can't be built. And if the trail isn't built by this summer, the regional district could lose the funding to do it.
"By the end of March 2012, we have to have the project completed," he said in an interview. "If we don't get it built this summer, or at the latest this fall, it's unlikely to be able to be built in the spring, we lose the funding."
The project itself reaches back to around 2006, when the Pemberton Valley Trails Association envisioned a safer route between Pemberton and Mount Currie.
Currently, the only access to the First Nation community about four kilometres east of Pemberton is by walking or cycling on a thin shoulder of Highway 99, where vehicles such as logging trucks and pickups are constantly travelling at high speeds.
The project initially looked at two options. The first was filling in some ditches next to the highway and building a trail over them. That would allow people to take essentially the same route to get to Mount Currie, but on a safer path.
Sturdy said the costs of filling in some "gigantic" ditches proved too prohibitive to complete with the funds available.
The preferred option looked at acquiring rights-of-way from private individuals - specifically, getting permission from property owners to construct the trail across sections of their land. The trail would go just inside private property boundaries from the Pemberton Valley Lodge to an area just behind Pemberton's Adventure Ranch.
The preferred option, Sturdy said, has run into a "stumbling block."
"What seems to have happened is owners are saying, if everybody's in, I'm in," he said. "At this point, we have not acquired all the rights-of-way necessary."
The regional district has taken numerous steps to get owners' approval. Sturdy said the regional district intended to create some letters of intent for the owners as a way of indicating their approval of the project. Thus far, the regional district hasn't received a single letter of intent.
If the project doesn't move forward to implementation, there's a possibility that the regional district can hold on to the funding. Sturdy said it could complete the components of the project that are possible, then reallocate it to other trail projects.
The trail, as it stands, is Sturdy's preferred option.
"The Highway 99 trail is an extremely important community builder and public safety issue," he said. "I drive that strip of road all the time and the people you see walking along the strip there, you've got a logging truck coming one way, people on both sides of the road, or a horse, you have a huge problem."
Hugh Naylor, a director with the Pemberton Valley Trails Association, said much the same thing.
"I feel it's needed very badly," he said. "There is really no other legal access to the river, other than on the highway or the dyke route to the south there, which is an iffy thing sometimes, and the route along the shoulder as it is is a very unsafe and very vulnerable route."