A local resident is seriously questioning the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s decision to block access to the Columbia River flats near the Revelstoke Airport.
“The way they went … about this makes you wonder if further actions to cut off access will happen just out of the blue,” said Jim Maitre, who lives near the Airport. “They don’t talk to anyone about it, there’s no signs to indicate potential hazards for people running around the runway. They just arbitrarily closed access and there’s no reason to think they won’t close other access.”
Maitre was reacting to a decision by the CSRD to place a fence that would block access to the trail used to access the area.
The CSRD, which operates the airport, said the action was being taken because of concerns that people and their pets accessing the runaway could conflict with aircraft taking off or landing at the airport.
“We don’t have any known instances of individuals interfering with air traffic but the hazard is there,” said Loni Parker, the director for Area B of the CSRD. “Any time you have people and dogs alongside runways there’s always an oportunity for a dog to go off and chase something onto the runway.”
There was no public consultation done on the issue and residents were not notified of the changes. The CSRD sent out an announcement last Tuesday morning announcing the decision. “I expect we probably will have people calling us,” said Parker. “We’re prepared to answer their questions.”
She recognized the area was popular but added, “It’s also an airport. I don’t know of any airports that aren’t secured against the public going in or accessing the runways.”
The district said it considered placing a $100,000 fence alongside the south side of the runway but the cost was prohibitive. Instead it is installing a smaller, $18,000 fence that would block the access path.
The area is used by many people to walk their dogs, ride their bikes and for cross-country skiing, said Maitre.
“I understand their need to have some sort of security out there but I think public education and consultation are in order out here,” he said. “They seem to make these decisions in Salmon Arm with the help of other people and it doesn’t seem to reflect the wishes of people around here.”
He said improved signage and enforcement would be a better solution than the fence.
“Making it clear that if the airport manager catches anyone and their dog up there, they’re going to be faced with a fine,” he said. “If somebody needs to be made an example of for bad actions, then so be it. I agree that airport security is paramount.”