They are experts in reading the rapids and anticipating the unexpected, but rafting companies on the Kicking Horse River near Golden, B.C. say they are struggling to keep their heads above water.
Protesters at a rally in Golden Monday say CP Rail blocked access to the Lower Canyon of the river in bad faith.
“They came to our town and lied to us, so I don’t even know why they would bother,” Carmen Narancsik of Glacier Raft Company said.
A gate was installed just days before the rafting season was set to begin.
“It’s now affecting real lives, real people, real businesses and families,” Glacier Raft Company’s Ryan Johannesen said.
The dispute began earlier this year when CP said it was ordered by Transport Canada to solve the problem of large numbers of people crossing the railway to raft the Lower Canyon route of the river — considered the jewel of Golden’s whitewater rafting industry.
But a month later, after an outcry from the town of Golden and a concerted push by local and provincial politicians, it appeared a compromise had been reached for this year while the two sides worked on a longer-term solution.
That solution quickly fell apart with CP saying, “Without full indemnification, CP cannot support rafters accessing the Kicking Horse River.”
“What we’re understanding is that CP Rail’s expectation was, from our perspective, unrealistic in that they were asking the province to take full liability,” Golden Mayor Ron Oszust said. “We’re talking up to $500 million plus environmental costs. That’s unrealistic.”
As the battle between the province and CP continues, local businesses that rely on tourism say they are getting washed out.
“There’s refunding happening, there’s trip cancellations,” Johannesen said.
“For our town here, it’s going to affect a lot of jobs. It already has been.”
– With files from John Hua and Justin McElroy