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B.C.’s motorized off-road groups pledge to resolve concerns, misconceptions about gondola proposal

‘An equitable solution can be found for us to support this project application,’ groups say

A group representing B.C.’s motorized off-road sports groups are pledging to resolve any outstanding issues – and members’ misconceptions – after a positive meeting last month with the Cascade Skyline Gondola Project proponent.

The ambitious $80 million project is proposing to build a recreational gondola amenity overlooking Chilliwack in partnership with Cheam First Nation, as co-proponent, and Pelolxw Nations.

Members of the Quad Riders Association of BC, BC Off-Road Motorcycle Association, BC Snowmobile Federation, and the Four Wheel Drive Association of BC had raised concerns publicly last month about the potential for gates restricting motorized users’ access in the Cheam, Chipmunk and Thurston areas.

“Based on the information that both parties shared it is clear that an equitable solution can be found for us to support this project application and our group now awaits written documentation from the proponent on the changes we discussed,” the Feb. 1 statement from the motorized groups said.

RELATED: Off-road groups concerned about trail access

Once they get a response in writing as requested, they’ll review it against impacts on any of existing provincial agreements that groups may already have in place.

They’re also asking their membership and other riders to stop sharing misinformation.

“We appreciate the private citizen petition that was created and is being circulated but it has contained some misinformation that is jeopardizing our work on this project,” the groups say.

They pointed to “widespread” use of the term CRA or Controlled Access Area in some of the online discussions about the gondola project.

“This project is not a CRA but rather an application for a non-exclusive use Commercial Recreation Tenure under the Adventure Tourism Policy. A CRA is what is used by ski hills to obtain exclusive rights on Crown land that allows them to control access to the area.”

One of the misconceptions is linking the gondola project to any ski hill.

The Cascade Skyline Gondola Project is the official project name submitted by proponent Jayson Faulkner, founder of the Bridal Falls Gondola Corp.

“This is not a ski hill although it was shared that another proponent may have submitted a letter of intent to develop a ski hill in the area, which is likely what is creating confusion,” according to the groups’ statement.

They also acknowledged that the gondola proposal is a joint project that includes a large investment by local First Nations, namely Cheam First Nation, which is the main project partner.

“These nations have financially invested in this project to create economic benefits for their band members long-term and to protect their heritage values in the region.

“We are committed to working with these nations to find solutions on this project but also to work closely with them to better understand their cultural usage in the area separately. We are pleased to state that despite the negative media, we are at a point where all parties are committed to working together to resolve outstanding issues on the table.”

The letter of concern about trail access was signed by:

Chris D’Silva, president, ATVBC Quad Riders Association of BC;

Peter Sprague, executive director, BC Off-Road Motorcycle Association;

Donegal Wilson, executive director, BC Snowmobile Federation; and

Kim Reeves, president, Four Wheel Drive Association of BC.

A gondola reps say they hope to receive the tenure approval from the province in the first half of 2023.

Their optimism was in part attributed to the support and continued endorsement received from City of Chilliwack, District of Kent, as well as stakeholders like Indigenous Tourism BC, CEPCO, Chilliwack Outdoor Club, Tourism Industry Association of B.C.

Discussions with the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) on rezoning and other approvals are underway, according to the January update from project proponents, and they expect to begin the formal application for rezoning as soon as they have the final update and clarity from the province on the tenure process.

RELATED: Cheam First Nation purchased golf course as gondola base

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering city hall, Indigenous, business, and climate change stories.
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