City council and School District 58 are examining the idea of erecting a barrier to block access to a steep path on an embankment that poses a safety risk and liability concerns.
The trail in question is on SD58 property in Diamond Vale, and can be found at the end of a statutory right-of-way off of Armstrong Street, which leads to the embankment overlooking the former Coquihalla Middle School.
“I think that might stir a little bit of heat [amongst] a number of people that probably find that a good shortcut to get them from that point of town to a different point of town.” — SD 58 board chair Gordon Comeau
The top of the embankment marks the border between city and SD 58 property. The steep path leading down to the school’s field is currently covered with compact snow. Trails that start at end of the sidewalk at the top and lead down, intersecting the field, indicate that the point is accessed regularly.
At a committee of the whole meeting on Jan.14, the school district expressed concerns of being liable if someone were to hurt themselves while using this pathway on their property.
School board chair Gordon Comeau said the school district has considered simply fencing off access to the property altogether.
“I think that might stir a little bit of heat [amongst] a number of people that probably find that a good shortcut to get them from that point of town to a different point of town,” Comeau said.
He added the board was curious as to whether or not council had any interest in leasing some of the property to develop a proper trail down the embankment, as the school district wouldn’t want to spend educational dollars to build a trail.
Coun. Dave Baker said his preference was to block the access as developing it into a proper trail would set a precedent to do the same in other areas of town.
Coun. Kurt Christopherson raised the concern that by improving a path that’s not a real trail, the city would open itself up to liability issues, while Coun. Goetz suggested erecting a sign warning people to use the path at their own risk.
“Normally, the city doesn’t put up barriers to prevent access to people’s property.” City of Merritt CAO Shawn Boven.
Merritt Mayor Neil Menard suggested the safest option to go with at the moment would be to block access to the embankment. He described the path down the embankment as a hazard in the winter.
City of Merritt chief administrative officer Shawn Boven told the Herald that because the path on the embankment is on SD 58 land, it’s their responsibility.
“Normally, the city doesn’t put up barriers to prevent access to people’s property,” Boven said.
“If [the school district] wants to control access to their property, it would be up to them to install whatever barrier they saw suitable.”