Anyone planning a long weekend of off-roading will likely be making other plans following fire prevention restrictions announced yesterday by the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.
All motorized vehicles – along with smoking and fireworks – are banned in public, wooded and brush areas until further notice.
The ban closes the KVR and other trails to motorized vehicles just before one of the busiest recreational weekends of the year in the Coalmont and Tulameen areas.
“Due to the provincial state of emergency and extreme conditions the RDOS Board of Directors have taken the strong stance,” states a press release issued after Thursday’s regular board meeting.
“While conventional human sources of ignition such as cigarettes and campfires are responsible for many fires you may not be aware of other ignition sources. A spark from a lawnmower blade, chainsaw or a horse shoe hitting a rock can all cause a fire under these extreme conditions. Even a carelessly discarded clear glass bottle can act as a magnifying glass and ignite tinder dry grasses. With no precipitation events forecasted for the immediate future, the most likely cause of any new fire will be human activity,” the release states.
The motion to pass the restrictions was supported by all but three RDOS directors. Area H director Bob Coyne and Princeton Mayor Frank Armitage both voted in its favor, and Coyne thanked the board for its support of the measure.
“I total one hundred per cent support it,” said Coyne in an interview Friday morning. “It’s just for the safety of the public and our province and if people do choose to enter the backwoods and they do start a fire they have to remember they will be held accountable for it.”
Thursday’s announcement has created a lot of buzz, he added.
“The phone’s been ringing off the hook…overall it’s been a really good response. There are a few people who are upset about it and those are the ones that are going to be vocal.”
His advice to disappointed off-roaders is: “Find a safer mode of recreation for the weekend.”
RCMP will be enforcing the ban, according to Princeton detachment commander Sergeant Barry Kennedy.
Kennedy said the restrictions likely will not be popular with some visitors.
“They will not. But neither is a forest fire. That’s even less popular.”
There is no bylaw assigning a fine to those caught ignoring the prohibition, however Kennedy said the RDOS does have the right to regulate land use in its jurisdiction and anyone operating a motorized vehicle on the trail or on Crown land will be subject to thorough compliance checks for licensing, plating, insurance, and other matters.
The restrictions come into play at the opening of Tulameen Days, an annual festival that attracts approximately 4,000 people to the tiny community.
Kennedy said extra officers will be deployed in Tulameen for four days, and will also be ticketing off-road vehicle riders who are using public roads and streets.
“If you are on an ATV and you are on the travelled portion of the roadway you will be receiving a $598 ticket,” he said.
Police will also be conducting a checkpoint at the entrance to Tulameen on Coalmont Road Friday night, and patrolling the area throughout the weekend for other infractions including underage drinking and liquor out of residence.
Ed Vermette, president of Princeton’s ATV Club, said that group supports the motorized vehicle restrictions imposed by the RDOS.
“Princeton ATV club supports the RDOS in their decision,” he said.
More notice for vacationers coming to the area with their off-road vehicles would have been helpful, he said.
“It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t issued at the beginning of the week because today people are travelling through.”
Vermette stressed the need for extreme caution this weekend. “This is Tulameen’s biggest weekend of the year…It’s scary.”
Barb Jones, a volunteer with the Tulameen Community Club which organizes Tulameen Days, said permanent residents are pleased with the RDOS restrictions.
“I think the locals are happy that it’s happening just to get the vehicles out of the bush for the weekend. The big concern is them sparking a fire.”
She said the move should not impact the success of the festival and the club’s biggest fundraiser.
Tulameen Days attractions include a parade Saturday morning, street vendors, carnival games, schoolyard races, firefighter demonstrations, beef barbecue, beer garden and pancake breakfasts.