By Andrea Arnold
McBride’s well-known landmark, Rainbow Falls, and the 80 acres around it will be sold by current owners Fred and Nancy Leake in the near future, but their hope is this won’t be the end of the public’s access to the waterfall.
In a letter they sent to several government agencies, including the Village of McBride and the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, the Leakes said they hope a public body will buy the land and turn it into an official park, preserving it for the use of generations to come.
“It is a public treasure,” said Leake. “We will ask a reasonable price if an organization is interested in keeping it open to everyone.”
They say they have enjoyed owning the land, but are at a time in their lives where they need to sell it. They are looking into what similar properties in the area have sold for in the past few years to determine what a fair asking price would be.
The pair purchased the land in 1971. Leake doesn’t remember who the previous owner was, but he has memories of hiking and climbing into the gorge and playing in the water on hot days. So when the estate was being disbursed after the previous owner passed away, Leake felt like it was the right thing to do.
“I don’t think any of us realized it was private property,” said Leake. “We would take sandwiches up, light a small fire by the base of the falls and spend hours up there.”
The idea of turning the land into a preserved park isn’t a new one. Leake has a document stating that in 1987, the RDFFG had created a plan for the land.
“They had plans for trails, picnic tables, rails and walkways,” said Leake. “All of this was done before anyone had talked to us, but we were thrilled with the idea.”
The document “Rainbow Falls Recreation System,” is four pages of concepts including Koenaman Park, as well as both Upper and Lower Rainbow Falls.
Unfortunately, the ideas never made it past the planning stage. There had also been discussion between the Regional District of Fraser Fort George and the McBride Area Economic Development Committee in 1989, but nothing came of that either.
Leake hopes that the land can continue being the destination that was written about in 1989 by Vancouver Sun writer Steven Hume. In his article “Waterfall beats hockey rink in tiny town,” he recounts a conversation he had with a young man on the street in town. He asked the boy what the most interesting thing to see in McBride is. After consulting with his friends, the boy responded that Rainbow Falls was the thing to see.
That same year, “Traveler’s Guide to Robson Valley,” summer edition had an article by Dave Marchant featuring the spot.
Leake does not want the history of the property to be lost. It is something to preserve, allowing many generations to share and make new memories.
If an agency or government body does not step up to preserve the land, then they will have to list it for public sale. Leake is concerned what will happen if that becomes necessary.
“Even if we enter an agreement with a private purchaser regarding the use of the land, I don’t believe that agreement will continue to be honoured when another sale happens further down the line,” he said.
Leake has received confirmation from both the Village of McBride and the Regional District that their letters will be a part of the next meetings. The Village meets on October 11th, and the Regional District on the 20th.
“I am worried that most of the people at the Regional District level do not understand how much the land means to the people of McBride,” said Leake.
Fred and Nancy would appreciate anyone who shares their desire to see the land open to public use for many years, submit a letter of support to the Regional District Chief Administrative Officer [email protected] before the October 20th meeting.