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The newly acquired land falls
within the proposed Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park, as recommended in the
Okanagan Shuswap Land and Resource Management Plan. The property is comprised
of coniferous forest, riparian areas, rugged terrain and some shrub-steppe
grasslands — habitat that helps support up to 15 species-at-risk, including
California bighorn sheep.
The Skaha Bluffs climbing
area is a collection of over 50 gneiss cliffs with over 800 climbs ranging from
10 to 55 metres in length. The region’s long season draws about 18,000 climbers
annually from around the world – and in particular from southern B.C. and
Alberta. While roughly 75 per cent of the Bluffs used by climbers are located
on Crown (public) land, the Bluffs are isolated by a continuous strip of
private, residential developments and agricultural land.
“Everybody’s thrilled there’s
a piece of property that’s been bought,” said Sean Dougherty, Penticton area
climber, guidebook author and owner/operator of the Skaha.org website. “It’s
big, and only a small piece needs to be used as a parking lot. The land will
provide access for a wide variety of users, including mountain bikers and the
sheep, and conservationists. A lot of uses will have to be accommodated in some
way, shape or form.”
But while the land purchase
does provide a long-term solution, Dougherty said, arrangements for the 2008
spring climbing season have yet to be sorted out.
“It’s not clear what’s going
to happen this year at all,” Dougherty said. “There remains a lot to be done.
The road is not sufficiently good to allow passage of 100 cars on Easter
weekend. And we do have to drive across someone else’s property to get to it.
It’s not a simple slam dunk. The solution is still a work in progress.”
For those familiar with the
Skaha climbing area, the new parking will be situated directly to the south of
the bluffs – an immediate right turn from the top of the long, steep staircase
sport climbers have been grumbling their way up for years.
“It will make the walk
shorter, there won’t be any stairs, it will be the same level as the stairs,”
Stairs or not, all parties
agree the news is good news.