An effort is underway to prevent a recently renovated former forestry lookout on Eagle Pass from being torn down.
The District of Sicamous, the Splatsin First Nation and Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo are among those asking the provincial government to leave the renovated historic site as is, so it can benefit the region as a tourist destination.
In a presentation to Sicamous council, Coun. Gord Bushell explained the former fire lookout at the top of Eagle Pass was constructed in 1922 for CP Rail. It was later used as a forestry lookout. Some time ago, the wood part of the structure burned down in a lightning storm, leaving only dilapidated lower rock walls and foundation.
Bushell said about five or six years ago, a group of local “enthusiasts” decided to look into rebuilding the structure. They went to provincial government offices in Kamloops, and were directed to Front Counter B.C. Bushell said a government agent informed them that because it was an existing structure, they didn’t need any approval to proceed.
“Finally, they got plans put together last year, they decided to go ahead and rebuild this cabin up top…,” said Bushell. “So they rebuilt the structure and they gathered about somewhere in the neighbourhood of $35,000 of non-taxpayer money by donations, and they put in close to $20,000 of their own time getting all the supplies up there.”
At a subsequent Shuswap Trails Strategy Meeting, representatives of Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. (part of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations) learned of the cabin being rebuilt and indicated it could be torn down.
“The policy for Recreation Sites and Trails, if it hasn’t been approved… is to burn them down…,” said Bushell. “I want to let everybody know there is a controversy over this site, and the two guys who actually built it are under investigation by the province for illegally building this structure. But they were told they didn’t need a permit.”
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations communication person Jeremy Uppenborn confirmed the matter is under investigation.
Providing some background comment via email, Uppenborn explained that under the Forest Range Practices Act, there is a process in which a “delegated decision-maker can decide whether the structure is in contravention of the act and would have the authority to order the site left as is, levy a penalty or order remediation of the site.”
Uppenborn said that before any decision is made, those involved in building the structure would be given the opportunity to present evidence and their rationale.
Bushell said most of those involved in the lookout’s renovation are recreational vehicle users, adding the site cannot be accessed by motorized vehicles.
“It’s totally a hike-in area. It’s going to assist the Shuswap Trail Alliance for sure,” said Bushell.
A petition has been set up, asking the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to not demolish the rebuilt Eagle Pass Summit fire lookout.