VERNON - It’s a scenic shortcut into town and a popular place to walk your dogs, but as many residents are just finding out, trespassing near rail lines carries a $115 fine.
The path runs parallel to Canadian National Railway's tracks behind the Vernon Golf Course, and is commonly accessed off Browne Road, where a CN police officer was waiting Nov. 12. Browne Road resident Enora Moon, who uses the path frequently, saw the officer hand out several tickets that day.
“Everybody was really upset, one lady was literally in tears,” Moon says. “Nobody has ever been down there giving warnings, and no one has ever put a decent sign up saying walking here is illegal and we can fine you.”
There’s no gate or fence blocking off the access, but a sign at the trailhead on Browne Road states: ‘Private crossing. Persons using crossing do so at their own risk.’
Moon, who has lived in the area for more than a decade, always thought the sign referred to crossing the actual tracks, not walking along the trail beside it, which she insists should be permitted not just because people enjoy it, but because it’s safer than the alternative.
“It sure beats walking along busy Kalamalka Lake Road,” she says.
Moon has been on the path as a train passed by and says there’s plenty of room in between.
Erica Beck, 20, walks the path several days a week on her way to work. The path brings her out in Polson Park, downtown Vernon.
“It’s quicker than taking the road and is safer (than Kalamalka Lake Road) in my opinion,” she says.
Steven Bockus, 18, also walks the path and understands the potential danger of walking along the train tracks themselves.
“But if you’re using the trail and staying off the tracks, I can’t see a problem with it,” he says. “It’s kind of like going to the beach—there’s no lifeguard on duty and you’re swimming at your own risk.”
CN Spokesperson Emily Hamer says under the Railway Safety Act, CN police have authority on CN property, as well as up to 500 metres off CN property.
“Trespassing remains the leading cause of rail-related fatalities in Canada, and those who walk along our tracks are putting themselves and others at risk of fatality or injuries,” Hamer said in an email. “Our police force take that matter very seriously and try to use education first, but enforcement is also a tool at their disposal to ensure that people are safe and stay away from railway property.”
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