March 13, 2015 - 4:03 PM
KELOWNA - Another sign that spring is coming early — the road to the top of Knox Mountain Park has reopened to vehicles, a week ahead of last year.
“We’re definitely a bit early this year,” says Blair Stewart, urban forestry supervisor with the City of Kelowna.
While the upper portion remains closed to vehicles for now, the near record temperatures the Interior is experiencing means it too will likely reopen earlier than last year.
Knox Mountain Park, the city’s signature green space, is subject to vehicle bans year-round depending on the weather. Winter road conditions on the park summit road mean it is gated off in the fall for most of the winter while fire hazards in the summer can also close the road for long periods.
In the active fire year of 2009, in response to park closures in the Central Okanagan Regional District, the city began closing the road in the summer in consultation with the Kelowna Fire Department.
“We made the decision then to close it off on the idea that the less people that go through there the less likely something is to happen,” Stewart said, adding caution signage did not seem to get through to people. “We were still seeing people driving to the top with lit cigarettes.”
Some people have criticized the closure for limiting access to those able to walk or hike through the park, but Stewart said the 360-hectare park is the equivalent to Vancouver’s Stanley Park, in his view and deserves protection.
“There are some tourists who don’t get to see the whole thing but on the whole, people seem to understand,” Stewart added.
The continuing fuel reduction program within the park has also made a difference, he said. “With the size of the park, it can be very combustible. We have completed 95 per cent of the park except for a few isolated areas,” said Stewart.
Smoking is entirely prohibited in all natural areas within the park, which is now open to vehicles from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. on Sundays. The park itself is open daily between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015