A new right-of-way agreement that allows access to the Lillooett riverfront was given official approval at a Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board meeting Nov. 23.
Local residents Jan and Hugh Naylor have signed the agreement that preserves public access for recreational purposes along the riverfront section in front of the Naylors' home in Pemberton.
"We knew people wanted to use the trail," said Jan Naylor, who along with husband Hugh, has lived in the area for 46 years and realized the potential for recreational users to be able to have access on their property.
"We're hoping that this will help in negotiating some other agreements," said Jan Naylor.
The new right-of-way permits non-motorized public access along the riverfront, as well as a trail that is known as Naylor Way, which is a short gravel path that runs parallel to the railway line off Urdal Road.
"It's partly a public service, but it's not all altruistic," said Hugh Naylor in a release. "We really enjoy the feedback we get from trail users, and the better the trail has become, the better stewardship it's inspired from users."
The Naylors started with a strawberry farm in 1976 and recruited some geese to aid the operation — the geese were among the first pioneers of the trail.
"The goslings would eat all the weeds in the strawberry fields, so they were working geese," Jan Naylor said with a laugh.
The agreement is one of the first in the Pemberton Valley, said SLRD chair Jack Crompton, and it helps to preserve the Naylors' equity due to liability protection and management obligations.
As more recreational users explore the valley, the trail is becoming increasingly popular. In 2014, the SLRD funded the gravel improvements, and in 2016 also funded a split-rail fence installed by volunteers. In the summer, the Naylors observed that upwards of 200 people a day use the path to gain access to the river.
"Access to water, be it a river, ocean, or lake — it doesn't matter — at the end of a walk, people like to have a look at the water. That's where you want to go: to see what the river is doing," said Jan Naylor.