Newly Renovated Eagle Pass Fire Lookout May Be Torn Down by Gov’t
The Eagle Pass Fire Lookout, a historic tower which had been reduced to a ruins over time by lightning, wind and deep snow, was recently renovated by an enthusiastic bunch of local sledders and powersports users at their own expense. Now, Forest Recreation Officers in Vernon and Cranbrook have told local officials that the renovation may be torn down and the building returned to its ruined state after a local hiking group lodged a complaint about the restoration.
Images courtesy of Rene St Onge
Local organizers were told no permit necessary for Eagle Pass Fire Lookout renovation
However, the organizers of the restoration claim that they were told by a Front Counter BC official in Kamloops, BC that no permits were necessary, because it was an existing structure.
Prominent local sledder and lodge owner Rene St Onge says that prior to the project getting underway, he had approached the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Okanagan Shuswap District Vernon office about approval for the project. He was referred to Front Counter BC, where he set up a meeting to be held at the Kamloops office. There he was told that no application or permits would be required because the structure was not new.
Thousands of dollars in donation and hundreds of volunteer hours into renovation
Over the course of the last two years, sledders and other volunteers from Sicamous and beyond banded together to get the renovation project nearly completed. Last year, workers built new walls over the remains of the foundation that was left after fire destroyed the rest of the structure.
This summer, the roof and windows were installed. The crew took painstaking efforts to ensure that the structure would be strong enough to support the local area’s abundant snowfall in winter. Also, lightning-specific protection was installed to protect the building from further damage.
St Onge estimates that $45,000 worth materials—100 percent donated by local businesses and individuals—have been used in the renovation. As well, an estimated 500 volunteer hours have gone into repairing the structure.
Local government and organizations rally to save renovation
Local supporters have rallied to try to save the hard work of the renovation crew. District of Sicamous councillor Gord Bushell confirms that a letter of support from the District of Sicamous has been obtained, as well as support from Splatsin First Nation, Shuswap MLA Greg Kyle, the Sicamous & District Chamber of Commerce, and Columbia Shuswap Regional District. Supporters have also met with Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Deputy Minister Tim Sheldan.
Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Investigation
The matter is currently under investigation by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNR), and a decision is yet to be made. According to FLNR:
- Under the Forest and Range Practices Act, there is a process whereby 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.
- Before any decision is made, the delegated decision-maker will give those involved in building the structure the opportunity to present their evidence and rationale.
At time of publication, a Stop Work Order has been posted on the door of the structure, which threatens fines if any work is undertaken. The structure is otherwise nearly complete, lacking only beds, a table and the installation of solar LED lighting which has already been purchased.