Langford is set to explore its legal options – including a possible expropriation – to reopen access to a small trail on Bear Mountain, which had been limited for public access last week.
Coun. Keith Yacucha tabled a notice of motion co-written by Coun. Kimberly Guiry during Monday’s (June 5) council meeting, asking staff to explore all legal options to establish a statutory right of way. That could include expropriation – meaning the city could take the land from owners Ecoasis.
This comes after Ecoasis started charging $45 for non-Bear Mountain residents to access the Finlayson Mountain Trail from Country Club Way, a small road the company owns. Residents who live in the neighbourhood atop Skirt Mountain can access the trail for free, but must first fill in a waiver and wear a wristband.
Yacucha said they have consistently heard from residents about ensuring Langford has “equitable access to recreation,” something impeded by the fee.
“We’re right at the doorstep of so much nature and we’re not talking about people’s backyards, we’re talking about fairly open area being blocked off. To say, ‘Sorry, you’ve got to pay quite a large fee to cross 100 metres to access a provincial park,’” he said in an interview with Black Press.
Yacucha added the fee could impact tourism business.
“That doesn’t leave a great taste.”
The motion also said staff should work with the District of Highlands to see if it would be willing to secure access to lands north of 1270 Bear Mountain Pwy., known as 1500 Hannington Rd and falls within Highlands.
If not, the motion asks staff to determine a route for a trail that would connect directly to Goldstream Provincial Park.
“We wanted to make sure all tools were on the table, it allows all stakeholders to kind of know what we could discuss as a council. So there’s no surprises and council can adequately prepare, we can hear from residents about their thoughts. It just allows for a more fulsome discussion and responsible decision-making on our part,” said Guiry.
In a previous email to Black Press, Ecoasis spokesperson Ruthanne Doyle said the “Resort Trail Program” had been previously announced in 2021, but delayed due to COVID-19. The $45 fee includes access to the Bear Mountain Activity Centre, which has multiple gyms, a pool and other recreation facilities.
“The program was formulated in response to a significant increase in traffic on our private property and is part of our risk management program to meet increasingly stringent insurance requirements,” Doyle wrote in an email.
Doyle added the company consulted Langford, Highlands, West Shore RCMP and the community association about the rule change.
“We’re looking to a more current discussion with current council,” said Guiry.
The motion will be debated by Langford council at its next meeting on June 19.