Delicate Spring Beauties dot the hillside alongside the trail and there’s the sound of water murmuring through the grass on its way into a nearby pond and wetland.
Tall firs and pines dot the field and grow thicker up the hill, but there are also darkened spires where the Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire of 2003 swept through this part of Myra Bellevue Provincial Park.
Although this wetland, fed by Peterson Brook and Hachey Creek, has been treated as part of the park, complete with several major trails crossing through it, it’s not actually owned by B.C. Parks.
In fact, there’s a total of 40 acres that’s almost entirely surrounded by the park that’s actually private land, and, with construction of a couple of subdivisions adjacent to the park in recent years, any access it might once have had is now gone.
Isabel Pritchard lives nearby and has for the past 40 years, but she’s been going into the area that is now park since she first moved to Kelowna in the mid-1960s.
She rides her horses there and has even helped to build some of the trails as part of her involvement with the Friends of the South Slopes. That group of volunteers has an agreement with B.C. Parks for management of the lower slopes of the 7,829-hectare rambling park, created out of the Land and Resource Management Plan for the Okanagan, a process that was completed in 2000.
Pritchard is concerned that the property’s owner, a numbered company that purchased it in 2006, now wishes to develop the property.
She says as long as the previous owner had it, there were no structures built on the property or activity on it, so it was managed as part of the park.
When Myra-Bellevue was created, she said FOSS tried to contact the owner, but there was never any response.
In 2004, after his death, it was offered to FOSS, but that was immediately after the wildfire so the group of volunteers was wrapped up in trail repairs and trying to make the park safe enough to reopen it to the public, so it was suggested B.C. Parks purchase it.
No one at the ministry was able to discuss the outcome of that overture prior to the Capital News deadline.
The Crawford Trails, which became part of the provincial park with its creation in 2001, used to include a trail called the Little Farm Trail or Meadow Trail, but Peterson Brook spreads out over a large chunk of the property every spring on its way to the pond and wetland, where Hachey Creek also runs.
The creeks are seasonal, but Hachey goes underground and reappears further downstream for much of the year, Pritchard says.
The main Fairlane Trail and Fairlane Loop trails both cross the property, complete with bridges over Peterson Brook and the popular Lost Lake Trail, which was once a logging road, crosses a corner of the property.
Pritchard feels strongly that the property should be publicly-owned so it can continue to be used by the public and so that the creeks and wetland areas are protected.
The property is an important wildlife corridor as well as a public recreation area and home to sensitive wetlands, she maintains.
“Lots of people use it every day, and they probably aren’t even aware that it’s private property and not part of the park. I can’t imagine it surrounded by a six-foot fence,” she says.
If you agree with her that the property should be maintained for public use, or are interested in making a donation to help that happen, contact her at 250-764-4533.