A proposed solution between CP Rail and the provincial government over an entry point to Kicking Horse River for rafters in Golden, B.C. appears to have fallen apart, just one day before whitewater rafting season begins.
Today, a locked gate was installed at the entry to the lower canyon of Kicking Horse River by CP Rail, who says the provincial government has reversed a key part of an agreement-in-principle that allowed rafting companies to keep crossing the tracks.
“CP had agreed to offer a short-term solution for rafting companies and the community of Golden to enjoy a safe and successful 2016 rafting season while potential longer-term solutions were weighed by all stakeholders,” wrote CP in a statement.
“Among other key components of the agreement-in-principle, the Province agreed to assume the risks associated with any safety-related incident arising directly from this special access for rafters. CP is disappointed that it was informed by the provincial government Friday afternoon of its reversal in position.”
The dispute began earlier this year when CP said it was ordered by Transport Canada to solve the problem of many people crossing the railway to raft the Lower Canyon route of the Kicking Horse River — considered the jewel of Golden’s whitewater rafting industry.
READ MORE: CP Rail blocking Golden whitewater raft groups from popular run
“Given the track curvature and sightlines, the risk to the public is too great,” said CP in March, explaining why it originally decided to ban all traffic this year.
“CP understands the frustration that the community may have regarding this issue. CP had attempted to find a solution that would allow rafters to cross safely and legally, but unfortunately, there is no solution that will meet CP’s legal, risk and regulatory requirements.”
But a month later, after an outcry from the town of Golden and a concerted push by local and provincial politicians, it appeared a compromise had been reached for this year while the two sides worked on a longer-term solution.
Now, three days after a cryptic note from the provincial government — in which Transportation Minister Todd Stone said “time is of the essence…to work out a solution” — it appears that deal is dead.
Norm Macdonald, the NDP MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke, put the blame squarely on CP Rail.
“I hold CP Rail directly responsible for this fiasco,” he wrote in a statement.
“There may be attempts to cast blame on other parties, but I reject that. CP Rail came to my community and made a clear promise. Today, with the refusal to allow access to the Lower Canyon for training, they have broken that promise, and that is simply unacceptable to this community.”
For their part, the provincial government also criticized CP Rail, saying they have “made it abundantly clear that [they are] unwilling to be a reasonable partner.”
“We urge CP Rail to reconsider its position as a result, given the significant economic impacts this closure will have on the community. ͞The Province recognizes the value of tourism to Golden and the region and respectfully requests that CP come back to the table to find a solution.”