Kicking Horse River access controversy: Stakeholders say CP response ‘cannot be no’

Businesses, politicians and industry groups are rallying to get CP Rail back to the table to find a solution to the ongoing Kicking Horse River access controversy.

Rafting the Lower Canyon of the Kicking Horse River is a popular tourism draw in Golden, B.C. Photo: Glacier Rafting

A large group of stakeholders concerned about the river access issue to the Lower Canyon of the Kicking Horse River issued a media release April 1 demanding that a solution to the problem be found.

As we reported earlier this week, a CP Rail decision to deny access to commercial rafting companies at a long-used but never legal access point to the river has kicked off protests in the community and beyond.

With the rafting season approaching, stakeholders in the community are deeply concerned it will devastate a major tourist business that the community relies on. They want CP Rail to come back to the table to help find a solution that will allow rafting as usual this season.

For more, see our original story.

Here is the April 1 media release from the stakeholder group that includes area politicians, rafting industry representatives, tourism representatives and many more:

Community rallies in support of Lower Canyon water users

GOLDEN – Loss of access to the Lower Canyon of the Kicking Horse River has resulted in a groundswell of support for whitewater rafters and kayakers as Golden and area residents take action to protect access to this vital part of the community, says Mayor of Golden Ron Oszust.

“Along with a community of caring and committed stakeholder on Thursday, I sat down with representatives from CP Rail to make our community’s position clear: CP Rail’s response to our community cannot be no,” said Oszust. “Golden and area residents accept the risks that come with having a railway in the heart of our community, including the risk of derailments and spills. In contrast, over more than 30 years, not a single incident has occurred at the crossing in question.

“As a community, we mitigate the risks that we face, and our expectation is that CP Rail will do the same in this situation. Access to the Lower Canyon of the Kicking Horse River must continue, and this needs to be resolved prior to the season opening in May.”

Mayor Oszust was joined by representatives of the rafting and kayaking community, Golden and District Search and Rescue, Tourism Golden, Kicking Horse Chamber of Commerce, MP Wayne Stetski by phone, a representative from MLA Norm Macdonald’s office, Regional District Director Karen Cathcart, and members of council.

“I was carrying the message that I have heard from every single stakeholder. We are expecting that CP Rail will return to its role of a good corporate citizen and community partner to negotiate a solution for all parties. There is a solution, and collectively we need to find it.”

Following a previous meeting with CP Rail on March 24, a social media campaign was launched to gather support from local residents. The ‘Save the Lower Canyon’ Facebook page was launched, and has already received 1,652 likes. A petition on has reached 4,761 signatures.

Rafting companies and politicians have received nearly 200 letters of support from local citizens, local business owners, regional and provincial tourism organizations, and people from around the world who have visited the Lower Canyon.

“The response we have received in just a week has been really amazing,” said Ryan Johannesen, owner of Glacier Rafting, speaking on behalf of the Kicking Horse River Outfitters Association. “Thousands of people from around the world have heard about this situation, and they just want to know what they can do to help keep access to the Lower Canyon open.”

Supporters are urged to sign the petition, share the Facebook page, and send an email of support to Transportation Minister Marc Garneau.

“We are confident that the federal government and CP Rail will come to understand the importance of maintaining access to this important section of this heritage river, and hearing from people who love the river will definitely help,” continued Johannesen.

Support has also been received from the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia, Destination BC, the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment, the BC River Outfitters Association and the Wilderness Tourism Association.

Excerpt from a letter dated March 30th, 2016 to Mark Wallace, VP Corporate Affairs for CP Rail from Walt Judas, CEO, Tourism Industry Association for BC:

“The Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia (TIABC) is urging CP Rail to find a fair compromise with Kicking Horse River Outfitters Association for access to the lower canyon of the Kicking Horse River that would allow rafting companies to continue operations.

“River Rafting is one of the iconic visitor experiences in the Kootenay Rockies region, attracting some 40,000 thrill seekers annually and contributing millions of dollars to the local economy.”

Excerpt from a letter dated March 30th, 2016 to Glacier Raft Company from Marsha Walden, President and CEO, Destination British Columbia:

“As you have stated, the Lower Canyon has provided the community of Golden and the surrounding area with invaluable tourism opportunities for over 40 years, especially for those involved in the river rafting business.

“The safety of visitors and residents alike is of course a primary concern and it is my hope that Canadian Pacific will continue to work with the stakeholders in this area to find a viable option that will allow for safe access to the river for all involved.”

“This is a critical issue for Golden and for this area,” declared Mayor Oszust. “Standing alongside members of council, Regional Director Karen Cathcart, MP Wayne Stetski and MLA Norm Macdonald, we are showing our support for this issue that speaks to the heart of our community. And we are confident that a resolution will be found to have rafters and kayakers in the Lower Canyon this May long-weekend.”