Former councillor has harsh words for Princeton mayor and trail committee

The future of the Trans Canada Trail through Princeton, and the performance of a committee charged with helping to determine its fate, came under harsh review at Monday night’s council meeting.

Business owner and former councillor Jerome Tjerkstra made a 15-minute delegation to council rebuking the mayor, the committee leaders, and urging consideration for keeping the trail non-motorized.

“Because of the jurisdictional conflict of interest, the history of poor leadership and especially due to the fact that the concerns of those who want the trail through town to be non-motorized have been completely ignored, anything this committee recommends falls far short of a mandate for change,” said Jerome Tjerkstra.

Ed Vermette, chair of the Mixed Trail Use Select Committee, attended the meeting, but afterwards declined to comment when asked by The Spotlight for an interview.

Committee member Jim Manion was also present, and said he had no comment.

However Mayor Spencer Coyne said later he has confidence in those appointed to the committee, which was formed as one of council’s first official acts following the October 2018 municipal election.

“I’m allowing the committee to do their job,” he said. “The terms of reference are very clear as to what the mandate and what the scope of the committee is.”

Last month Tjerkstra started a petition for residents of Princeton only, recommending that the KVR through town remain non-motorized.

“As you know, three members of this committee have recently bowed out of this committee and this raises some concerns,” he said. “When you lose good, committed citizens on a committee, a review of how that committee is structured would generally be in order.”

Related: Members named to committee charged with finding solutions to Princeton trail conflict

Tjerkstra covered numerous issues in his presentation.

He said there are too many “outside organizers or stakeholders on the committee,” he referenced council members’ answers to a pre-election questionnaire published by The Spotlight, talked about the history of the trail and funding, suggested motorized use of the KVR detracts from tourism because it discourages non-motorized users from visiting, and emphasized safety.

Related: Trail committee chair eager to open up KVR in Princeton

He pointed to recent tragedies in the Tulameen area involving off road vehicles on the trail and on town streets.

“This is a trail where parents walk with their small children, some moms with babies in the pram. People run and exercise and walk their dogs. Seniors, some with dementia or are hearing impaired also walk along the trail as well as folks using handcarts. Tourists come through and ride their bikes. Some people just want to walk and chat. Like the promenade along the lake in Peachland and Penticton, where no motorized vehicles are allowed. The TCT/KVR is our promenade along the river.”

Tjerkstra was a member of council when that body passed a bylaw enforcing a prohibition of motorized vehicles on the trail.

Related: Council passes controversial ATV ban

Coyne said he heard Tjerkstra’s concerns about safety, adding that recommendations on trail safety are among the ones demanded by the committee’s terms of reference.

At recent meetings the committee has agreed to a 15 km an hour speed limit on the trail through town, as well as to a flashing light signal at the tunnel in order to avoid motorized vehicles and non-motorized users from confronting each other in the confined space.

A sub-committee formed to liaise with RCMP also reported on concerns that included after dark riding, Wildfire Act fines and the legal requirement for spark arrestors.

“They’ve stuck to the points laid out,” said Coyne. “They’ve addressed safety, speed limits and noise control.”

He said he regrets the committee has lost some of the members appointed by council.

“It is unfortunate that certain individuals have decided to remove themselves from the committee, thus removing their voices and concerns from the committee as it moves forward,” he said.

Related: More members step off Princeton council’s trail committee

Tjerkstra said Coyne acted inappropriately.

“At the last council meeting it was your worship that gave a glowing report on the current status of this committee. This was not proper protocol as it should have been the chair of the committee reporting to council. It does indicate that perhaps his worship is communicating with the committee chair who is promoting the narrative that motorized use of the trail is a given. “

Coyne underlined that no decisions regarding the use of the KVR through town have been made.

“Who knows what the recommendations are finally going to be? I don’t know what council’s decision will be. I’m sure there are people who are going to be upset with council’s decision whatever direction it takes.”

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