Abuse puts public access to Fort Shepherd in jeopardy

Although the Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area opened this month, there still remains a danger of the popular area being closed.

Although the Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area opened to the public this month for a third season, there still remains a danger of the popular area being closed.

Guarded closely by the Trail Wildlife Association (TWA) and its president, Terry Hanik, the area south of Trail down Casino Road is used by all sorts of recreationalists, but not always towards a noble pursuit.

Hanik said after the TWA took over in 2010 as stewards of the land, people have been trying to keep the area in as pristine condition as possible. But it only takes one or two people to wreck it, he said, usually by dumping garbage or driving into regions closed to vehicle traffic.

Over the winter, some people created bonfires on Teck’s land — the first eight kilometres before the conservancy — burned pallets and left some refuse, said Hanik.

Continued acts of that nature would precipitate closure of the area by the advisory committee that included The Land Conservancy, Teck and TWA representatives.

“This is the only area that The Land Conservancy has let people go in and use. No other piece they own allows people to go in and use,” he said. “But the area could end up being shut down if they abuse the land.”

And it would be a great loss to the local recreation culture if that were to happen. Hundreds of people each year use the Fort Shepherd area to hike, fish, swim, hunt, mountain bike, walk dogs or go down to view monument at Fort Shepherd and look around for artifacts.

Hanik’s duties as warden are to inform users, as well as observe and report violations.

“I try to educate people on what they can and can’t do so that we can keep this special area open to everyone.”

Last year Hanik said he was in contact with 364 groups of people in vehicles — down from 409 in 2010 — as well as 159 people on quads (71 in 2010) and 293 people on motorcycles.

Hanik admitted he doesn’t have much authority as warden to directly penalize those who take liberties with the land, but he will take down names and licence plates and forward them to the proper authorities if need be.

“We can’t stop people from going into the area like they have been for years … and we’re not stopping people from entering the area, we just want people to respect what is there,” he said.

The deal for the land was negotiated when Teck sold the 964-hectare property to TLC in 2006 for $500,000, one-third of its market value, and then a partnership was formed with TWA.

According to TLC’s website, the site on the west side of the Columbia River southwest of Trail has the “largest intact area of very dry, warm Interior cedar hemlock in British Columbia.

“The dry rock slopes contain crevices that shelter endangered or threatened wildlife, including canyon wrens, Townsend’s big-eared bats, and racers. As many as 29 rare species of wildlife have been found or are expected to live on the property.”