Boundary residents have been asked for their input on the future of the Kettle River Recreation Area, located just north of Rock Creek on Hwy 33.
The draft management plan, available online through bcparks.ca, is meant to replace a previous guiding document that was approved in 2003. Since, BC Parks says, “there have been significant changes to the recreation area,” such as campground development and more visitor amenities. The 2015 wildfire that roared through the park also significantly impacted the area’s natural systems.
“A new updated management plan would place enhanced emphasis on the recreation area’s high ecological values as well as incorporate more context on the significant cultural and archaeological values associated with the site,” BC Parks says.
The management plan is meant to outline the key types of uses for the area, permitted activities, valued aspects and future goals for the Kettle River Recreation Area, which was established in 1972.
The ecology of the recreation area is fairly unique to B.C. In fact, BC Parks says that “the grassland and open forest […] are considered extremely rare and have all but disappeared from the Kettle River Valley due to land conversion and development.” Keeping grazing cattle out of the area, the document says, has been key to preserving the unique landscape. Between the Ponderosa pines and the looming cottonwood trees on the banks of the Kettle River, the area boasts many species that “collectively comprise characteristics of several ecological communities considered at risk in the province,” the draft management plan reads.
The 2015 fire that tore through the park’s dry landscape has offered researchers an opportunity to study forest recovery, but it also opened the door to invasive plants, such as Dalmatian toadflax. Climate change is also gradually pushing a turnover of species in the park, and the management plan suggests that many local plants will migrate to higher elevations to survive in even warmer weather.
One of the biggest barriers to doubling down on the protection of local ecosystems within the recreation area is a private subsurface mineral rights claim that exists within the park. Under the proposed new draft management plan, BC Parks will look to acquire the claim and subsequently turn the area into a Class ‘A’ park – a classification that offers more protective capacity to the province. Under such a designation, the province could also ensure that the river portion of the area is protected as part of the park as well.
The management plan as drafted also suggests that the province would look to acquire some adjacent private property to expand the park further.
Residents have until June 25 to submit feedback on the draft management plan. Online feedback forms are available at https://forms.gov.bc.ca/environment/kettle-river/.