By Spencer Hall
The Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association (VARDA) has purchased a Swift Creek property to ensure public access to multiple trails and the protection of the village’s watershed.
Beloved among locals, Swift Creek trail is used for a variety of activities such as walking, hiking, running, and biking. It can be accessed from Main Street and is located close to the seniors complex.
Previous to VARDA’s purchase, the 30-acre parcel of land — located at 1340 Main Street — had no established public access agreements, meaning if the parcel had sold to another buyer, the public could have lost access to Swift Creek trail and the adjacent trail network.
VARDA Executive Director Curtis Pawliuk said he recommended the association purchase the land to indefinitely preserve trail access for the public— a recommendation that was approved by the board as a whole
“The idea to purchase (the property) was for the protection of the public’s access to Swift Mountain trails, to Swift Creek and Swift Creek watershed,” Pawliuk told The Goat.
“I just got it in my head that I could pull the project off under VARDA and secure the land for the community, which then protects the access to the trail systems beyond the historic trail,” Pawliuk said.
Purchase of the property was then made possible by a $300,000 grant and a $100,000 loan from Columbia Basin Trust.
Columbia Basin Trust President and CEO Johnny Strilaeff said the purchase not only safeguards vital access to VARDA’s multi-use trail network, but also enhances recreational opportunities in the region.
“The Trust is proud to support VARDA with the purchase of this 30-acre property in Valemount,” Strilaeff said, “Our commitment to projects like this reflects our dedication to fostering vibrant, sustainable communities in the Columbia Basin.”
The land is also part of the Swift Creek watershed, located across the creek from a Village-owned property that houses the pumphouse and retention pond for the Village’s drinking water.
Village CAO Anne Yanciw said she’s delighted VARDA purchased the property, adding that secured public access to the trail will have a long term benefit to the community
“Local ownership will help to safeguard the watershed as well, to maintain water quality for our drinking water,” Yanciw said.
Mayor Owen Torgerson said the Village is pleased with VARDA’s “forward thinking in their purchase of this property to ensure future access for all, and for furthering recreation potential in the Valemount area.”
Pawliuk said VARDA isn’t currently planning to create any new trails on the property, but is hoping to conduct a feasibility study — once the association can afford the $40,000 cost of the study — to improve the accessibility of the trail.
“The first goal would be to create some proper access to that property because right now, it’s down a very steep bank and it’s not accessible to everybody,” Pawliuk said.
Going forward, he said VARDA is looking to host community events and receive donations to go toward the association’s $100,000 mortgage of the Swift Creek property.