A creekside controversy is brewing in Peterson Creek.
Fraser Street resident Brenda Muliner said she recently heard from a neighbour that digging had occurred in the downtown nature park in which she has hiked for more than a half-century.
Muliner visited the area last weekend and said she was “shocked” to see some of her favourite creekside trail torn out.
Portions of trail running along the creek near the Xget’tem’ Trail are being restored to their natural state by the city, due to public safety concerns over erosion.
Muliner said much of it was part of a heritage trail, travelling up from Glenfair Drive to the waterfall and has been there since before the bridge was constructed.
She said it provided quiet shady trail in the summer, space during the COVID-19 pandemic and access to the creek. Muliner said day cares attend the area and, when she visited over the weekend, she spoke with an elderly couple who had been visiting for years.
The couple was in tears when they saw what has been done to the trail, Muliner said.
“People, I think, are really upset and don’t want to see the loss of these beautiful areas and trails,” she said.
Muliner is a board member of the Sagebrush Neighbourhood Association. She said the issue is of concern to the association, which she said wants to ensure work stops and consultation occurs. Chris Ortner is the neighbourhood association president. He said the issue goes beyond trail usage, noting he has complained to the province about potential violation of riparian area regulations.
“Because the digging goes right down to the creek,” he said, telling KTW he noticed the addition of silt in creek water. “You need to have a permit even to operate within the riparian area.”
City of Kamloops CAO David Trawin said the municipality is doing restoration work in the area due to the illegal trail and erosion. Trawin said the city wanted to stop people from going into that area by naturalizing it.
Furthermore, the city’s parks manager, Jeff Putnam, said the decision came down to public safety. He said an original formal trail, the Creekside Trail, washed out naturally a couple of years ago, forcing the city to dismantle the route and create a new one, still called Creekside and located parallel to the old trail, about 15 feet away. Despite signs requesting people to stay away from the eroded area, Putnam said those were ignored and barricades were set aside. Trawin added that people not only continued to use the trail, but forged new access, including cutting away native trees to improve access.
“What was happening is it was dumping people right into an eroded area of Peterson Creek and it was obviously very unsafe to use,” Putnam said.
In addition to safety concerns, Putnam said good trail management practice is to return it to its natural habitat, so the city has put down soil and seed. Expect fresh grasses to spring up amongst the Rocky Mountain junipers.
KTW visited the area on June 9 and noticed another problem — the new Creekside Trail seems to no longer live up to its name. Though it runs parallel to the former trail and Peterson Creek, it does not run along the edge of the creek and is instead exposed to the elements and wedged behind large junipers, with the sound of the creek the only indicator it is nearby.
Still, there are myriad other access points to Peterson Creek throughout the nature park area and iconic trails for which the area is best known remain untouched.
Putnam said it’s not the first time the city has had to alter a trail — and it won’t be the last. He said the city balances recreation and conservation in its parks, including rejecting requests for additional biking trails in Kenna Cartwright Park.
“Unfortunately, it’s very common in natural areas, where we’re often realigning trails all over the city to deal with natural occurrences like erosion,” Putnam said. “It’s kind of an ongoing, fluid process. A lot of people — which we love — are attached to their parks and trails and sometimes it can be difficult to accept.”
Trawin said the work in Peterson Creek is part of regular park maintenance, which would not require public consultation.