A Rossland Range snow hut.

Just digging in

The work has just begun to make the backcountry playground of the Rossland Range the best it can be.

The new designation of the Rossland Range as a provincial recreation site means the work has just begun to make the backcountry playground the best it can be, says a Friends of the Rossland Range (FORRS) member.

Les Carter said with the high country between Red Mountain and the summit of Mt. Crowe finally designated as a Recreation Site by the Recreation Sites and Trails Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the designation comes with a price.

Not a monetary one, said Carter, but one paid for with more volunteer hours of labour and planning. There is a public workshop planned for the end of October to begin to address that.

“Now the work begins,” said Carter. “FORRS, with the community’s help, has to work out what a partnership agreement with Rec and Trails, and a management plan, will actually look like.”

The province officially recognized the importance of the area for public recreation, and will plan and manage it accordingly, contingent upon the community itself putting in a significant amount of work.

“We will have to find a lot more volunteer ‘horsepower,’” said Carter. “There will be a FORRS membership drive, more FORRS directors will be sought and ‘squeaky wheels’ will find themselves chairing committees. Funding sources will be pestered.”

The designation now gives the Friends of the Rossland Range, as the Ministry’s non-profit partner, the ability to raise funds and carry out projects to make the Recreation Site viable.

Designation of the site had been strongly propelled by intensive and increasing public recreational use of the area, said Carter.

FORRS will be facilitating public workshops in the near future to inform the community about the Recreation Site designation, to receive the community’s input in order to refine the terms of the designation and begin writing a management plan, and to recruit as many enthusiastic people as possible to work on making the Recreation Site a reality.

Letter from the province

Up to five of the existing warming shelters are approved via the authorization. FORRS must work with ATCO (local forest licensee) to determine which shelters are to remain.

The structures that will remain must meet Ministry standard and the GPS coordinates must be forwarded to the recreation officer along with photos and a description of each shelter.

All other structures are to be removed and the sites fully rehabilitated by Sept. 30, 2014.

FORRS has to acknowledge that the approval will not prevent, inhibit or hinder other authorized or tenured entities from exercising their legal rights within the area (including logging, trapping and mining).

FORRS must enter into a partnership agreement with the Recreation Sites Trails branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to manage and maintain the site by Nov. 30, 2014.

Any recreation related activities FORRS wishes to implement within the boundaries of the area must be presented to the district recreation officer for consideration.

Designation will not proceed until the area has been inspected by the recreation officer to ensure compliance with the conditions laid out.

Source: District recreation officer letter to FORRS

Where the Range is located

The recreation site is located along the spine of the Rossland Range, between Red Mountain Resort’s controlled recreation area and Big Red Cats’ commercial recreational tenure.

From Red Mountain Resort to near Nancy Green Pass, the area’s easterly boundary is Highway 3B. In the Nancy Greene Pass area, it extends north and east of Highway 3B to include slopes of Mount Crowe to the west of Big Red Cats’ tenure.

The west boundary includes the sub-alpine zone of provincially designated trails (Seven Summits, Old Glory) and includes enough of the northwest ridge of Mount Lepsoe to buffer the Seven Summits trail and the winter-use trails south and west of Nancy Greene Pass.

The range includes the headwaters of several creeks, a number of important riparian zones, and at least one significant wetland. These areas will be inventoried, and will be of special concern in plans to manage recreational use of the area.

History of the Range

The proposed recreation tenure area has a long history of recreation use, which has been primarily non-motorized. The area is easily accessible from a maintained public highway, and popular with all age groups.

Presently, users of the area have come to a general understanding that non-motorized activities take place on the west side of Highway 3B and motorized uses take place on the east side of the highway.

The area also has long history of timber harvest and mineral exploration. ATCO Wood Products of Fruitvale holds the timber license in the range.

Some of the proposed area is within the City of Rossland Watershed Zone. This area is primarily within the boundaries of the City of Rossland. However, a small portion of the headwaters is in regional district electoral Area B.

Permitted uses in the Rural Resource 3 designation may include forestry, natural resource management, conservation and related land uses, campground and passive recreation.

What recreation site means

The recreation site designation would preserve the ski huts locally built years ago by Booty Griffiths, for the community to ski up to and enjoy the backcountry.

At one time the Ministry of Forests was going to tear the original cabin down but the community protested. The province relented and said the community could keep the cabin as long as it was for public use and the name “Booty’s Cabin” was dropped.

So, to get even, Booty and his friends went out and built more cabins, said Carter.

“Those became, just like the Rossland Range, an attractive feature for the public and everyone goes there and skis,” he said.