The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD), along with Ducks Unlimited (DUC) and the Nature Trust of British Columbia, has purchased the 27.1-hectare (67-acre) Fulton property.
The property, owned by the Fulton family since 1962, has a "critical trail system on it, plus the wetlands and bird watching is absolutely amazing," according to SLRD chair Susie Gimse. She added there was also old-growth forest.
"It's a good news story, really good for the community," she added. "(There is a) beautiful loop trail on the Fulton through Riverside. It's kind of like Pemberton's Stanley Park."
The land, which runs adjacent to the Lillooet River in Area C just outside Pemberton, was purchased for $430,000 through SLRD's Area C Community Parks Fund, which can only be used for land purchases, along with financial input from Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Trust. Ducks Unlimited shouldered 64 per cent of the purchase price, the SLRD 24 per cent, and Nature Trust 12 per cent.
"The potential of it for recreation activities it tremendous," said Gimse. "There's nature walking, trailing running, there's dog walking, mountain biking, and, of course, it will be non-motorized uses on the site. In the winter there can be cross-country skiing and snowshoeing."
It is also adjacent to the Riverside Nature Park Crown Land area, which in 2002 the SLRD attempted to secure the tenure to. Tenure was denied because of access issues, but the Fulton purchase now improves this access. There is also a CN access issue with a CN rail crossing. Gimse said the purchase "now changes this (access) scenario, which is great," adding that the partnership with the two other agencies makes the purchase unique.
"With the intent of providing natural habitat for animals and plants and protecting the wetlands, it's a nature park," she said.
"I don't think we have a park anywhere in this area where you can enjoy the wetlands species. The first time I went there, I was just really surprise at the number of birds you can view from sitting on the hillside."
The Pemberton Valley was once filled with extensive wetlands, but they were drained in the 1950s to create the rich farmland used today.
"I'm just so thrilled that we were able to secure the property. We've been working on this for two years," Gimse said.
"We are very pleased to have been included in this project with our partners and the Fulton family," said Brad Arner, manager of provincial operations for British Columbia, DUC, in a release.
"This land includes diverse wetland and riparian habitat and being able to secure it for conservation is vital to maintaining important waterfowl habitat and breeding grounds. It's also a great way to connect with the community by engaging local organizations and volunteers."
While the property hasn't been farmed for years, the purchase finally puts to rest a long-standing conflict over the trails.
A June 1, 2001 letter from late owner Jim Fulton to Pique expressed the tensions felt as a farmer whose property was the locations for the trails. After several confrontations, their family closed access to the public.
He said at the time: "Last Saturday 37 cyclists and 22 motorcyclists came through three trails that have been illegally cut on my land. We were insulted and threatened with assault when we politely asked cyclists to stop trespassing. We don't run cycles through their yards and couldn't believe the violent responses!
"... We are genuinely sorry that some locals are no longer going to have access to our property. However, no one is going to accept 59 trespassers in one day on their own property, along with threats."
Speaking for the family in a release, Barbara Fulton said they were pleased with the outcome.
"Given our deep interest in the environment, our family felt that the best possible use of the land would be to keep it as an ecological preserve, as the largest untouched wetlands in the Pemberton Valley," said Barbara Fulton.
"It will now remain an intact, natural ecosystem for everyone to enjoy. We are extremely pleased that Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, the Nature Trust of B.C. and the local community had the foresight, will, and optimism to protect this unique property for future generations. Our family had many happy times there and we're thrilled that the property is in such good hands."
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