B.C. restricts access to Kootenay recreation site damaged by mud bogging vehicles

·3 min read
The B.C. government has restricted access to Brilliant Flats, following increasing complaints from local residents about the damage done by mud bogging motor vehicles. (Submitted - image credit)
The B.C. government has restricted access to Brilliant Flats, following increasing complaints from local residents about the damage done by mud bogging motor vehicles. (Submitted - image credit)

The B.C. government has barred motor vehicles from access to a West Kootenay provincial recreation site of significance to First Nations, following increasing complaints from residents in the region.

Since last Friday at noon, the province has worked with the Regional District of Central Kootenay, RCMP and the B.C. Conservation Officer Service to ensure no motorized traffic on Brilliant Flats, a traditional Sinixt Nation territory of roughly one square kilometre. immediately east of Castlegar, B.C.

The regional district has set up concrete barriers on roads around the site.

"There have been growing concerns in recent years about unauthorized mud bogging … on Crown land at Brilliant Flats and its associated impacts on the land and the environment," said the B.C. Forests Ministry in a written statement Friday about why it has restricted access to the site under the Forest and Range Practices Act.

The regional district has set up cement barriers on the roads around Brilliant Flats.
The regional district has set up cement barriers on the roads around Brilliant Flats.(Submitted)

Mud bogging is a form of off-road motorsport in which a vehicle is driven through a pit of mud or a track of a set length. The B.C. government says this activity isn't allowed on all provincial recreation sites and trails, including Brilliant Flats.

The Sinixt First Nation says the site also has cultural significance.

"Members of Sinixt actually resided at this site. There [are] our ancestral burials that are there. There's also [Sinixt] traditional use plants at the site," Rodney Cawston, the chair of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington state — which represents Sinixt members on both sides of the border — told Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South on Tuesday. "This has an awful lot of meaning to us, and it is also regarded as a sacred site for our people."

Cawston says he has seen the damage done by recreational vehicles, as well as campers on Brilliant Flats before the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's really hard to say what the extent of that damage is, but it really threatens the archeological and cultural resources and also the grave sites of our ancestors," he said.

Peter Wood — an angler from Nelson, B.C., northeast of Castlegar — first visited Brilliant Flats more than three decades ago. He says the damage done to the First Nations territory has become more extreme this year.

"In the last several years … the area has seen a lot more use by people who apparently don't respect it [the Indigenous territory]," Wood said Monday on Daybreak South.

Wood says over the past several years, drivers of 4x4 and other big-tire motorbikes have left 4.5 kilometres of dirt tracks and mud holes on Brilliant Flats, and it takes a tremendous amount of work to repair the land.

Brilliant Flats before 2010.
Brilliant Flats before 2010.(Kat Enns)

"It [Brilliant Flats] is being desecrated by the people who have been tearing it up," he said. "I'd say [to those people] find a place that doesn't have those kinds of values [to the First Nations]."

After the provincial decision to restrict access to Brillant Flats, the Sinixt Confederacy in British Columbia and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation say they want to work with the B.C. Forests Ministry more closely to better preserve the traditional Sinixt territory.

Tap the links below to hear Peter Wood's and Rodney Cawston's interviews on Daybreak South: