In eight weeks, activity on the Kicking Horse River will roar to life.
The offshoot of the Columbia River is renowned for its whitewater rafting, bringing around 40,000 tourists every year.
And the most popular area to raft is the Lower Canyon route, which winds its way through treacherous terrain before ending in the town of Golden, B.C.
“They spend time in our community, they do rafting, and the Lower Canyon is the jewel,” says Golden Mayor Ron Oszust.
But now, the Lower Canyon route – and a key part of Golden’s economy – is in jeopardy.
Canadian Pacific Rail has told six rafting companies they can no longer use loading area between the railway and the river.
“These companies will not be allowed to trespass on CP property to access the Kicking Horse River,” wrote CP spokesperson Salem Woodrow in a statement.
The decision came several months after a Transport Canada rail safety inspector noticed too many people were moving supplies across the railway tracks, and told CP Rail to come up with a solution.
For months, CP Rail and the rafting companies had talked about installing a crossing, to be paid for my the rafting companies.
But at a meeting last week, CP Rail told the community no crossing would be considered.
“It was our expectation going into the meetings was look at some specific short-term measures that would be acceptable to give time for a long-term solution to be put in place,” said Oszust.
“We were quite surprised shocked and disappointed when the CP reps stated they don’t believe there is a safe crossing at that location, and they’re not prepared to take the risk.”
Ryan Johannesen, owner of Glacier Raft Company, said a de facto ban of rafting the Lower Canyon would have a serious impact on their business.
“Between all the companies, there’s about 15,000 that would raft this section alone. Not only for the companies it means less income, it means less income for our guide, potentially fewer employees, a lot of them support families in town, so the trickle down effect would be fairly large,” he said.
“The answer of no for this crossing is something for this town, for this industry, that can’t be the final result.”
CP Rail says that after investigating the area, a safe crossing would be impossible to implement.
“Given the track curvature and sightlines, the risk to the public is too great,” wrote Woodrow.
“CP understands the frustration that the community may have regarding this issue. CP had attempted to find a solution that would allow rafters to cross safely and legally, but unfortunately there is no solution that will meet CP’s legal, risk and regulatory requirements.”
Johannesen, who says there has never been an accident in the industry’s 40 years of operation in the area, believes that’s not the case.
“They said putting a crossing n there wouldn’t meet Transport Canada guidelines, but we’ve spoken with Transport Canada, and they say a solution can be reached. It just feels like CP doesn’t want to work with us on this one.”
CP will meet with the companies again this week, as the town of Golden rallies around an industry they hope can continue unabated this year.
“They safely commercially raft some of the most dangerous whitewater rafting in the province. They’ve been doing that for 40 years, they’ve been getting people to do the river and down the river, and there’s never been an injury or accident at the railroad crossing,” said Oszust.
“Our interpretation was this is the final comment and stance [CP] was taking. As a community that’s not acceptable.”