BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Driving into controversy

Columnist Richard Rolke goes for a tour along Cosens Bay Road in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park

It’s been some time since I navigated my way through Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, but with the ongoing controversy over Cosens Bay Road, I filled up with gas and went for a drive.

As I entered the park, I went up a brief rise and came upon a large flat with sweeping views of the park and westward towards Kalamalka Lake and Terrace Mountain in the distance. The gravel road, at this point, was in good condition and wide enough for a Sherman tank to roll past.

However, the scenario evolved quickly as I began to descend around a couple of narrow bends. Hugging the right bank, I began to consider what I would do if I came across an oncoming vehicle, but none materialized. The road then flattened out, but remained narrow, as I went past a series of fences and a walking path that goes down to the beach. Despite no parking signs, a vehicle occupied part of the road width.

From there, I climbed another hill up past a gurgling creek. Wash-board conditions kept me  bouncing but that’s not unexpected on a gravel incline. Corners awaited and sight-lines were short, but that just meant going slow and remaining attentive, particularly as two cyclists abandoned their car on the side of the road and headed up a trail.

I made my way past the parking lot for Cougar Canyon, inched along massive power poles and left the park and entered what is commonly known as the Cosens Bay cabin colony — a small enclave of older, established summer getaways and newer, expansive residences.

It was within the residential area that the road deteriorated the worst — giant ruts filled with water provided a rough ride while there wasn’t sufficient space for me to pass a fellow and his dog comfortably. I kept following the road until I came upon a gate and had to turn around.

The return trip through the park was uneventful and even though I did come across oncoming vehicles, everyone was respectful and  backed off to ensure safe passage for all.

My excursion was a direct result of the Ministry of Transportation wanting to remove a 20-metre-wide right-of-way from Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park so it, and not B.C. Parks, has jurisdiction over the road. Specifically, it wants assurances that it can conduct safety and maintenance work.

Now there is no question that some sections of the road are precarious for motorists, particularly if two are side by side.

However, if you consider the route is essentially a bush road, it’s in pretty good shape. Yes it is narrow, but so are many roads in Coldstream and the BX, and quite frankly some right in the heart of Vernon’s East Hill. Drive Cosens Bay Road with respect and you shouldn’t experience any major issues.

Except for some specific locations where limited widening is needed and possibly some pull-outs, it’s difficult to understand why the ministry needs a 20-metre swath along the entire length of the 4.5-kilometre road.

Opponents of the ministry’s plan suggest a right-of-way will further divide the park’s ecosystem, but that’s not an outstanding concern for me as the road has been there for decades and any damage to flora and fauna is already done. The bottom line, for me, is that expanding the entire right-of-way isn’t necessary given that such maintenance has occurred through park status and current conditions force motorists to slow down.

There has to be a mechanism other than actually removing land from the park to allow for ongoing maintenance and to improve safety. And that should be the Ministry of Transportation’s ultimate focus rather than fostering tension among park users and property owners.


Vernon Morning Star