After weeks of patience, and now significant loss of revenue, rafting companies in Golden are no longer willing to remain silent, says Kicking Horse River Outfitters Association (KHROA) spokeswoman Carmen Narancsik.
An agreement in principle was reached on April 22 between CP Rail rafting operators and representatives from the community of Golden. That agreement guaranteed access to the river’s Lower Canyon. Members of the KHROA were confident that CP Rail would be true to their word, and that they had a solution allowing access for the entire summer rafting season.
“The day before the season opening, CP Rail installed a gate across the road, cutting off access to the Lower Canyon,” Narancsik said in a statement released on Saturday, June 4. “We had arranged a training run for our staff, only to discover that we had been locked out. A heavy CP Rail Police presence on opening day at the access point just added insult to injury.”
As a result of CP Rail’s actions, the summer rafting season has started and rafting companies are now being forced to refund clients who cannot get the experience they paid for.
“The fact of the matter is that CP Rail came to our community and they misled us. They promised us access, and showed what appeared to be genuine regret that any upset had been caused. Mark Wallace apologized that they had taken as long as they had to find a solution, and guaranteed that our rafting season would be saved. But he also asked us not to speak publicly about the terms of the agreement.
“We believed Mr. Wallace, and we kept quiet,” said rafter Ryan Johannesen. “But all that silence did was buy CP Rail time. It now seems that CP Rail is just running the clock; that they never had any intention of allowing us access.”
CP Rail attempted to shift the blame to the provincial government, claiming that it was in fact the province that had reneged on the agreement. But no community member who attended the April 22 meeting views the situation that way.
Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald was clear in where he places the blame.
“I sat in that room with Mayor Ron Oszust and representatives of the rafting companies and was told by Mark Wallace, Chief of Staff to CEO Hunter Harrison that CP Rail was going to provide access to the Lower Canyon,” he said in the statement. “There was an expression of regret from CP Rail for the disruption that had been caused to the community and a clear statement that they had a solution. We took Mr. Wallace at his word.”
Town of Golden Mayor Ron Oszust frustrated by CP Rail’s.
“On April 22nd, CP Rail made a commitment to our community Oszust sqid. “To me, it appears that they lied to our faces. It now appears that they never intended to fulfill their commitment to provide access to the Lower Canyon.”
Oszust said the CPR is applying a double standard to this situation.
“If communities, such as Golden, insisted on the same level of mitigation of risk and liability that CP Rail is demanding in this case, passage of dangerous goods through our community, and through communities across Canada, would end right now,” he said.
The situation for rafting companies is dire. Bookings are being cancelled and staff are being negatively affected due to limited access to work.
“This situation has serious consequences not just on the rafting community but also on a range of businesses in Golden” Johannesen said. “Without the Lower Canyon run, we are not able to raft through town, and our guests are not accessing all the bars, restaurants, and shops that Golden has to offer. This is an example of one of the largest corporations in Canada recklessly damaging the tourism industry in a town that relies heavily on summer visitors. It’s simply unacceptable.”
Rafting trips are still available on the upper and middle sections of the Kicking Horse River.