The flats by the airport are to remain publicly accessible — for now, anyway

By David F. Rooney

Residents angered by an earlier Columbia Shuswap Regional District announcement that it was about to restrict public access to the flats south of the airport are today alt least somewhat happy to hear that the district has backed down.

Karl Klassen was one of several people who complained about the CSRD’s March 27 announcement. (Click here to read the original story.) The area is extremely popular with neighbourhood residents as well as many, many people from the city who enjoy birdwatching on the flats.

“I don’t know about the long run but for now residents are just going to be glad that they’ll restrict their measures to signage and a fence around the airport instead of blocking public access to the flats,” he said.

People who complained in writing to Area B Director Loni Parker and other CSRD officials have all received a letter from Gary Holte, the district’s manager of environmental and engineering services.

“The Airport Management Committee supported the option to restrict public access to the Flats from the area immediately south of the airport primarily to avoid the high cost of fencing the south perimeter,” he said in his letter.

“It is understood that due to the nature of the terrain of the flats the only way to keep pedestrians and off-road vehicles from accessing the runway is to fence the whole runway, and this option will have to be implemented in the future at the expense of the City of Revelstoke and Area B taxpayers. In the meantime, signs will be posted along the airport runway to warn the public that access to the runway from the flats is strictly prohibited.”

“Signage seems a reasonable solution,” said Jim Maitre, another resident of the neighbourhood by the airport.  “At least until demand for regularly scheduled service into a market of dubious profitability comes around to justify fencing. Then should taxpayers be on the hook for a service that few of us can afford?”

Because the new Mark Kingsbury Bridge over the Illecillewaet River now provides pedestrians will access to the flats, signs will be erected at the north end cautioning people to stay off airport property.

Trespassing on the runway is a long-standing concern of the CSRD. It was an issue during the sometimes-volatile discussions that led up the Upper Arrow Lake Drawdown Zone Management Plan published in 2007. It’s hard to believe that some nitwits would wander around an active airport and runway but Holte said last month there have been indication that a few people do just that.

In his letter, Holte noted that the CSRD has been trying to enhance airport security “anticipating this as a prerequisite to certification.  Certification allows for regularly scheduled flights into Revelstoke and requires a higher level of security than what is currently in place.”

Previous studies of the airport have suggested that expansion could have an important economic impact on the resort.

That remains to be seen but regular air service might have a negative impact on wildlife, especially water fowl that rely on the flats as a nesting habitat.

Council will briefly discuss the matter during its regular 3 pm meeting on Tuesday, April 24.