May 31st, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 22
Access to York Creek Road blocked
Proprietors put up barriers to stop access for general public
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
John Kinnear Photo
York Creek Road is blocked off indefinitely with boulders and security tape by a private landowner who owns the land, barring access to two properties and a provincial staging area. The municipality, the province and the private landowner have been in discussions to find an agreeable solution for everyone and maintain public access to the road.
Pass Herald Reporter
The lower portion of York Creek Road in Coleman has been blocked off indefinitely by the owners of the land, The Green Mountain Company Inc.

Access has been barred by boulders and security tape set across the road as of May 23. A sign reading “road closed” was set up and “closed road” was spray-painted by the entry to York Creek Road.

The Green Mountain Company Inc. owns the bottom parcel of land that includes York Creek Road before it transitions into a road owned by the province that culminates in a provincial staging area in a forest reserve. There are two private properties located past the road closure, in addition to Green Mountain RV Park.

Green Mountain purchased the land from Coleman Collieries approximately 15 years ago. Their primary motivation for blocking off the road is an insurance issue.

“About 10 years ago, our insurer started to make noise about the fact that they didn’t want to be insuring, and would eventually not insure, a public roadway on private land. They said we shouldn’t be involved in providing that service and they were going to be cutting us off,” says Mark Kirwin, director of The Green Mountain Company Inc.
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According to Kirwin, Green Mountain has made multiple pleas to both the municipality and the province over the past five years and that York Creek Road has been identified for at least 10 years as a roadway that should be public, not private.

“We’ve got a paper trailer going back where we’ve asked the municipality to please take this off our hands or come up with a solution one way or another because we can’t carry the liability of having a public access to our lands. The town has refused to come up with a solution,” he says.

In December, Kirwin says he advised the municipality that he would be closing the road, but they requested that he leave it open until spring, when they would respond with a proposed solution.

“Another six months had gone by and there was no feedback from the town, no effort to resolve this, so we had to close the road. Essentially, they had 10 years of heads up on this issue,” he says.

The municipality has directed him to communicate the issue with the province, but Kirwin says that Alberta Infrastructure has not shown any initiative to take on the liability for the road either, despite several requests by him.

If the province or the municipality want York Creek Road to continue allowing public access, Kirwin says they should take steps to acquire the road.
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“If the town or the province are interested in maintaining a public road there, they can come to me with proposed solutions. I’ve done my best to communicate with them and I’ve received no cooperation,” he says.

Now that the issue is on the municipality’s and province’s radar, Kirwin says he hopes the issue will be resolved quickly.

“One thing I don’t want is to send out any kind of signal that we are hostile to the town or that I have a major grievance. It’s an issue that will likely get resolved fairly quickly if we just all come to the table and talk about it. I don’t think anybody should be getting upset about it, as it’s certainly not meant to be permanent,” he says.

According to Patrick Thomas, Director of Development, Engineering & Operations with the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, the roadway has been used as a road for many years, but it is not technically a legal road.

“It is a part of a larger parcel of land that goes through private property,” he says. “There is no road allowance that protects that portion of the road. It has existed there for some time, but it is not legally a road.”

There have been long-term verbal agreements with past parties and the municipality, but they have never been formalized into a proper agreement or road allowance.

Thomas indicated that while the municipality would like to see the area open for access for users, they have not been able to come to agreeable terms with The Green Mountain Company Inc.
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“The municipal responsibility of the road stops where the road closure is. The rest of the portion is either private property or crown land that lies within municipal boundaries,” says Thomas, adding that the province has a vetted interest in maintaining the roadway considering planned Highway 3X twinning plans taking place in that region, and the provincial staging area with access to the back country at the end of the road.

“There is some unknown with the future of this area that we feel the province needs to be involved in and that’s why we’ve reached out to them as well,” he says.

Thomas says he is unsure at this point as to when an agreement may be reached, but has indicated that the municipality and the province are in ongoing discussions with Green Mountain.

Kirwin, however, indicated that The Green Mountain Company Inc.’s last emails from summer 2016 and fall 2016 went unanswered.

There are two residents who live further south York Creek Road past the blocked off section.

One of the landowners who owns a quarter section of land with a cabin expressed concern for fire and safety vehicles accessing the property.

“It makes it difficult to get up there, but more importantly, I have a relative that lives up there year-round. Our concern is that we don’t know whether allowances will be made for access for fire trucks or ambulances if it was necessary,” says the homeowner, who does not wish to be identified.

Alternate vehicle access to the property is possible through a back trail, but becomes challenging in cases of heavy rain or snow.

“More than anything, I’m disappointed that people couldn’t meet around a table and discuss this,” says the homeowner, adding that they were advised by Green Mountain that a closure was possible.

Fire Chief/Manager of Protective Services Jesse Fox says that they have made arrangements to access the property on their end.

“There is a secondary route that we can access through the campground area. It’s not ideal, but we still have emergency access up there,” says Fox. “It’s a longer route to get there and there is a bridge that we have to go over, so we have to be careful with weight restrictions going over it.”

While the properties are still accessible to fire crew, Fox adds that the road blockage is still a concern.

“I’d like to have it open completely. It would lessen our response time and we would be able to provide better fire protection for the residents at the top of that road,” he says.
May 31st, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 22
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