The opening of the new pedestrian footbridge at Scout Island and RC Cotton has been postponed after several outstanding concerns have been identified.
“Although we do support it, it does present some concerns for us,” said Ordell Steen who is co-president of the Williams Lake Field Naturalists.
“One is that it’s kind of a backdoor entrance in that people coming that way are not visible through our caretaker. So during after hours, the times when the gate is closed on the causeway, we’d like to have the bridge closed at the same time because people do sometimes come in after-hours, and there are occasions when we feel there is sufficient reason to phone police for example to remove them and we do find evidence of people trying to light fires on Scout Island.”
Steen adds that there is a lease agreement between the Nature Trust of BC, the owner of the land and the City and the sublease to the Williams Lake Field Naturalists which specifies that the City and the Field Naturalists will protect the land, plants, trails and structures on the Nature Centre.
“There is some legal obligation to be concerned about the lands of Scout Island Nature Centre in that point of view,” Steen said.
“So we are trying to work with the City now to find some solutions because we understand that putting a gate on the bridge presents a safety issue.”
Mayor of Williams Lake Walt Cobb told MyCaribooNow it was recommended to not have a gate by the City’s safety committee.
“I don’t even know what to suggest but let’s say somebody needed to get away from somebody else and they got to the gate and couldn’t get across the bridge to get to safety or let’s say it was an animal chasing somebody and they got to the gate and couldn’t get across,” Cobb said.
“That’s the main part of the safety issue as well that you could get trapped on the bridge and have no access.”
Cobb said they are looking at other options including a buzzer to the care taker’s office on the gate.
Another concern that has been identified is a patch of knapweed on the RC Cotton side.
“Knapweed is a pretty aggressive invasive species,” Steen said.
“We have eliminated it from Scout Island Nature Centre, so it’s not there at least that we know of but people coming to the RC Cotton side of the bridge may walk right through. Right now they’re able to park in the middle of the knapweed and then walk through the knapweed; dogs or other pets crossing the bridge would transport knapweed seed over to Scout Island and that would spread the knapweed.”
Steen said he believes they can find a solution to that and that one would be to potentially put up some fences to limit vehicles from parking in the knapweed patch and other low fences to encourage people to stay on the trail.
A soft opening of the RC Cotton bridge was scheduled was to take place Wednesday, Dec. 18.
The Field Naturalists and the City will be meeting to come up with possible solutions to the outstanding concerns in the new year.
Both Cobb and Steen said they are confident they can be addressed.
“There have been some things that have popped up along the way,” Steen said.
“For example, the original bridge design that we were asked to approve for the project did have a gate on it and the City told us that it would be a locked gate, so the concern over safety has been a recent thing. We had a solution and it’s no longer a solution and we have to find something else, and I’m sure that we can.”
Steen added that knapweed was discovered after they had approved the project.
“The concern with knapweed is it’s difficult to manage right now because of the nature of the RC Cotton soils and the very high archaeological values are there but I’m sure we can find a solution. I think the city staff is keen to work and I think we together can find a solution,” Steen said.
“Again we support the bridge but we also have an obligation to protect the value of the Scout Island Nature Centre, so I’m sure that we can get it done.”