Western Stevedoring has assured the public that there is still free access to trails on its leased properties in the Cowichan estuary.
Company spokesman Alan Moore said the trail system is still open to the public, despite fears that Western Stevedoring, which holds the Crown leases on significant areas of the estuary, had decided to restrict access to the trails.
A spokesman for the Cowichan Estuary Restoration & Conservation Association had stated that Western Stevedoring is stepping back from its commitments to help with ongoing trail and restoration projects in and around the estuary.
CERCA chairman Goetz Schuerholz said the company had indicated that it had been advised by its lawyers that there are liability issues to be considered with building structures along the trail system, and CERCA had also been told to stop any other initiatives, such as an essential spring clean-up along the trail system.
Schuerholz said that since further access to the trail has been denied indefinitely, CERCA believes it’s important for the public to be aware of the current situation and why CERCA is not moving forward with intended plans for the next phase of trail construction, which is already funded and supported by many stakeholders.
One of CERCA’s main projects started in 2015 and involved the construction of an educational nature trail.
Schuerholz said the project began in partnership with Western Stevedoring “as a means of working together, rather than in opposition”.
Moore acknowledged that the company’s legal team had advised that Western Stevedoring could be liable if a member of the public was injured in any accident involving structures it was involved in building.
But he said no other projects on the trail system have been prohibited, and the trails continue to be open to the public.
Moore said, for safety reasons, the company is interested in developing a long-term community plan that would emphasis the use of the trail while keeping pedestrians and pets off the industrial access road to the terminal
“We’re preparing to have a kiosk along the trail system this weekend to let people know the trails are open, and to offer information about our rezoning application in the Cowichan Estuary as well,” Moore said.