Dogwalkers and hikers are lamenting the loss of a popular West Vancouver trailhead that has long provided access to the upper lands trail system.
Members of the North Shore Professional Dogwalkers’ Alliance first noticed No Trespassing signs posted on the service road at the top of Ballantree Road above the British Properties in December, when workers were clearing trees in the area and told them to move on.
They later discovered about 250 metres of the Ballantree Trail is on privately owned land, which, in 2016, was advertised for sale as a “prestige development site” with views overlooking Capilano Lake. The property was taken off the market about six months ago.
“The long and the short of it is, it is a privately owned chunk of property,” said Barry Rueger, alliance president. “Technically, everybody’s trespassing on private property if they go that way.”
Rueger said he’d like to see the District of West Vancouver, which has an easement on the land for a road to a water reservoir at the north side of the property, step in and find a new way to maintain access for trail users.
“West Van spends a lot of money maintaining that trail. It would be silly if it was cut off,” he said. “The recreational lands and the trails keep getting nibbled away every time there’s a development and I think at some point, there’s got to be an end to that. They’ve got to say ‘no, this is enough.’ That’s why people are on the North Shore. They want to be on the trails. They want to be in the forest and you can’t just keep building up and up and up.”
The district is looking at its options, according to West Vancouver spokesman Jeff McDonald. “Our staff are looking at possibilities, eventually, for rerouting the trail into Ballantree Park to pass south of the privately held lands,” he said. “It should be recognized that the property owner has very graciously allowed, to this point, access across the land, including the area where many of the people park up there, which is also on privately held land.”
The district hasn’t yet assessed costs or possible routes, McDonald said.
The 8.25-acre land is zoned for cabin use only, with a maximum building size of 74.5 square metres and no access to the municipal water supply. The plot is subject to the district’s interim tree bylaw, which forbids the removal of trees with trunks more than 75 centimetres in diameter. The property is also above the 1,200-foot contour line, which the district’s Upper Lands Working Group recommended as the barrier for development.
The group also recommended the district buy any privately held lands above that mark, although the district hasn’t identified the Ballantree plot as a priority for land acquisition, McDonald said.
The land belongs to Fabrizio Coltellaro, owner of Casa di Coltellaro Developments, who said he put up No Trespassing signs after district staff informed him an unpermitted cabin was under construction on the site.
“Somebody was trying to build something,” he said. “We put a stop to that.”
Coltellaro said he would not mind people using the trail if the district would assume legal liability for it, but he was unable to insure the property without the signs. “If someone falls and hurts themselves, it’s a liability to me. I could get sued for millions and millions of dollars.”
Eventually, Coltellaro said he would like to redevelop the land, but with the zoning as is, he will likely just build a cabin for his own family’s use.