Looking at CN as a neighbour in Prince Rupert

This week there was quite an uproar over the new barriers and anti-trespassing signs put up along the waterfront, and rightfully so.

This week there was quite an uproar over the new barriers and anti-trespassing signs put up along the waterfront, and rightfully so.

For decades now residents of Prince Rupert have become accustomed to walking along the beach or the road with friends, family and pets as it is one of the more scenic, serene and accessible walks in the city. It’s a relaxing place to get away from the business of downtown and the sounds of the passing traffic.

Personally, when I was living in a small basement suite on Atlin I thoroughly enjoyed walking that stretch of road either to get downtown or just for some fresh air (something not readily available in a basement suite that looks out into a brushy marsh). I’ve also helped host Community Easter Egg Hunts on the beach area as a member of the Hecate Strait and Prince Rupert Rotary Clubs. The beach area was also one of the first places I took the exchange daughter we’re hosting this year – on a nice sunny Prince Rupert day there aren’t too many better places to be.

And while, like everyone, I have made use of and enjoyed accessing the CN waterfront land, in the back of my mind I always thought I was enjoying it on borrowed time given the amount of activity taking place currently or proposed for the

waterfront.

The fact of the matter is that CN owns that land. It is their private property and they can do with it as they please at any given moment without any notice. What they do may not be popular, but as a company CN is likely less concerned with popularity than it is with watching out for its own interest. We may think CN has a social responsibility, but they really don’t.

This whole situation reminds me a lot of when I was growing up in Kitimat. I was fortunate enough to live within eye sight of the high school, and the quickest way to get there was to cut through the yard of the neighbour behind us. Myself, my brother and my friends would walk through my back yard before using a little walkway between the two houses in back to reach the street and the short walk to school. One neighbour was cool with it, the other wasn’t so we shifted over to his lawn.

When he moved out, the first thing the new neighbour did was put up a fence. That was the end of that and I was choked that I now had to leave 10 minutes earlier for my daily walk to class.

Speaking with him after I graduated and matured a bit, the neighbour told me the fence was put up not only to protect his lawn but for liability purposes. If you willingly allow someone on to your property and they get hurt, you’re liable for what could be a big chunk of change.

Now, being a homeowner, I’m pretty sure I would do the exact same thing if random people were using my back yard to get from point A to point B. It just makes sense.

In the above case, CN is like our neighbour. They were nice enough to let us use their property for decades on end without making a peep – something they didn’t have to do – and are now cutting off access in light of changing circumstances. At any point in the past CN could have put up a fence all the way along the waterfront to completely cut off the land, and they would have been within their rights to do so, but they didn’t. With the barriers up and enforcement coming, the reality is there is nothing anyone can say or do to make CN open up access to the waterfront again, at least not anymore than someone could make you let strangers onto your own property.

The challenge now rests with the City to find or create an alternative for those who look to an easily accessible waterfront for their quality of

life.