Submitted photo

Update: Fort Shepherd opening date TBA

Land conservancy holds open session in Trail

(Note: The Land Conservancy has corrected its initial statement regarding the opening date of Fort Shepherd as July 15. That date is not correct, the day is still “TBA” or to be announced.)

After being shut down to the public for the past few years, the Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area will re-open for limited recreational use this summer, with a date to be announced.

Read more: Teck closes gate to Fort Shepherd

Read more: Fort Shepherd conservancy outlines reasons for closure

Limited use means hikers are welcome, provided they stay on the existing trails and do not disturb the ongoing rehabilitation of wildland that provides habitat for numerous species-at-risk.

No dogs, no bikes, no hunters and no motorized vehicles are permitted on the land – and the area will be under watch.

“We are hoping this is a permanent opening, but it will depend on abuse,” Cathy Armstrong, executive director of The Land Conservancy (TLC), told the Trail Times.

“We will have security patrols, and volunteer wardens, but if the public does not obey the restrictions we will have no choice but to close it again.”

The conservancy is especially concerned about terrain disruption and wildlife interference.

“The area has seen significant recovery after the years of closure, with wildlife returning and habitat recovering,” Armstrong said.

“Our primary objective is to provide a sanctuary for wildlife, a refuge particularly for ungulates in this time of declining populations.”

Anyone with questions about the Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area may want to attend an open meeting at the Trail campus of Selkirk College on Monday, July 15.

The event is free, and will run from noon until 2 p.m.

“The info session is an opportunity for the public to bring their comments directly to TLC, the owners of the property,” Armstrong explained. “We will take all input, and may modify access based on those comments. For example, one of the city councillors called me about handicap and senior access given the length of the road in,” she added.

“All concerns will be taken seriously and addressed where it is feasible to do so.”

When the site opens next week, access to the Fort Shepherd conservancy will be permitted through Teck land, along the main access road only.

“Teck requests that all pedestrians remain on the main road through Teck lands and head directly to the conservancy area,” Armstrong noted.

“Once inside the conservancy area, pedestrians accessing the site are asked to remain on existing trails to allow for the continued rehabilitation of impacted areas.”

Horseback riding is permitted, but remains restricted to the main road or Dewdney Trail to minimize the potential for soil disturbance and invasive plant spread.

Due to forest fire risk, fires are not permitted on site and no overnight camping is allowed.

Owned by The Land Conservancy of British Columbia (TLC), Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area is 964 hectares of grasslands, dry forests, rocky slopes, cliffs and caves running along more than eight kilometres of the Columbia River.

It provides habitat to numerous species-at-risk including great blue herons, nighthawks, canyon wrens, Townsend’s gig-eared bats and racer snakes.

The area also provides a valuable refuge for mule deer and elk.

TLC previously opened the area to motorized vehicles on a trial basis however violations against permitted use and impacts to the sensitive, protected sections of the property persisted among motorized vehicle users, leading to the closure to motorized vehicles in March 2016.

For the past three years the site has seen regrowth in areas of concern and an increased presence of wildlife.

“On a recent visit I was struck by the presence of deer, elk, coyote, and turkey tracks co-mingling on the sandy shore of the river,” Armstrong said. “We are asking that the public respect the wildlife habitat that Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area protects.”

Management of the area is overseen locally by the volunteer wardens of the Trail Wildlife Association (TWA). TWA is a volunteer run conservation organization that works to protect, enhance and encourage the wise use of the environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

In September 2006, Teck Metals Ltd. announced the transfer of the Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area lands to TLC as part of its efforts to publicly recognize the Centennial of the founding of the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Ltd. – now Teck Metals Ltd.

The transfer of the land was completed in December 2008.

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Image: The Land Conservancy

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