Access to the Exstew campground may be lost if a deal isn't reached by April 1.

Access to Exstew at risk of being lost

Access to the Exstew River Recreation Site is in jeopardy if an agreement isn’t reached before the end of the month.

Access to the Exstew River Recreation Site is in jeopardy, with CN planning to put up a locked gate on the road leading to the area if an agreement isn’t reached before the end of the month.

CN erected a sign beside its private crossing, which intersects with the dirt road leading to the popular recreation site, warning the public of CN’s plans to close the crossing as of April 1.

Emily Hamer, CN’s regional manager of public and government affairs, said the company is “currently speaking with interested parties” to see if another group will take over responsibility of the crossing.

“The crossing at the Exstew road is a private crossing that intersects with a forest service road, which is under the jurisdiction of the province. At this time CN is clarifying who will take responsibility for the maintenance of the private railway crossing,” said Hamer.

The dirt roadway leading to the site is currently under the responsibility of Coast Tsimshian Resources (CTR), a forest company owned by the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation band. Although CTR holds the road permit for the area, it doesn’t currently have any active cutting permits.

A statement from CTR said the company  has continued to maintain the road for the benefit of recreational users, with maintenance of the rail crossing in question being done “by others”.

“CTR has no economic reason to keep the road permit open, but for goodwill we have maintained portions of the road for the past four years to allowed continued public access to the Forest Service camp ground,” said Dave Jackson of CTR.

“Perhaps the Forest Service may wish to take over the crossing and establish the road tenure as a forest service road to ensure the public has continued access … as recreational access may be impacted by such a closure, CTR is hopeful that CN will seek an arrangement that will continue to keep this crossing open,” read the statement.

The Exstew River Recreation Site is under the jurisdiction of British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO). Ministry spokesperson Greig Bethel confirmed CN has spoken to the ministry about taking over responsibility over the last few months, however at this time it will not be doing so.

“If for some reason in the future Coast Tsimshian decides they no longer want that road permit, the ministry would look at options at that time,” said Bethel.

Hamer said if an agreement is not in place by April 1 CN will close the crossing with a locked gate, to the disappointment of many longtime users.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice said she has received many calls and emails about the potential closure and has been working with Skeena MLA Robin Austin on the

issue.

“We are clear in understanding that the site is very important to local Terrace and Prince Rupert residents who have enjoyed the area with their family for many years,” said Rice, who believes it would be “hugely problematic” if the crossing was gated.

“At this stage we have to wait and see what Coast Tsimshian Resources’ intentions are … if this comes to the point where the road is gated, Skeena MP Robin Austin and I are definitely going to be proactive in lobbying the provincial government to keep the site open and take on the responsibility of the road,” she continued.

“We’re hoping it doesn’t get to that because the government has been talking about times of austerity and budgets are all really squeezed.”