The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is preparing to hold discussions with CN Rail about members of the public using a railway bridge to access Crown Land and recreational trails.
On Nov. 16, Hugh and Jan Naylor, owners of a property at 7522 Urdal Road, sent a letter to the regional district and the Village of Pemberton expressing concerns about the public using a railway bridge over the Lillooet River to access Pemberton's extensive bike and hiking trail network.
In the summer, cyclists regularly use a trail that goes across the Naylors' land from Urdal Road to a dike and on to land owned by CN Rail. From there, cyclists access the bridge that takes them into the bike trails, which are very popular with recreational users and advanced cyclists.
The alternate route to access those trails is a long route involving Highway 99's shoulders - an unsafe path, according to the Naylors, who've also been informed that they may be in a position of liability because the trail across their property offers people access to the bridge.
The Naylors have offered the right-of-way across their property to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District to administer, rather than face liability themselves. They also hope a solution can be found whereby the public can continue using the CN bridge.
The Naylors have been pursuing the issue since 2006, when they shared their concerns with Chuck Strahl, MP for Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, which includes the Pemberton Valley. They wrote him again in August and got a response in October, with now-Minister of Transportation Strahl informing them that anyone using the bridge is in violation of Section 26.1 of the Railway Safety Act.
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy encouraged the SLRD board to seek a solution.
"(The trail) provides a huge and valuable service to the community," he said. "I think if we can work towards a way of absorbing or recovering the liabilities, whatever other opportunity we have, this is where the solution lies.
"This is used all the time and literally in the summertime, there'll be hundreds of people a day. It's interesting to me, it sounds like CN really doesn't want to go there because they feel that they'll be in a position where they'll have to accept liability and they would rather prohibit it and literally, they would prefer to see people killed as long as they are not liable."
Speaking before Sturdy, Area A Director Russ Oakley said "good luck" when dealing with CN Rail.
"CN Rail in Kamloops said go away, don't talk to us," he said. "I expect that to happen here, but I support any effort to convince them otherwise."