Evicting the Three Bears: Okanagan 'enchanted forest' trail has an uncertain future - InfoNews

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Evicting the Three Bears: Okanagan 'enchanted forest' trail has an uncertain future

The shoes mark the spot. The trailhead for the Mystic Trail.
April 25, 2019 - 5:45 PM

SOMEWHERE NEAR LUMBY - Several kilometres past Mabel Lake Provincial Park, down a pot-holed dirt road, in amongst dense forest stands a tree with trunk and branches adorned with more than a hundred pairs of shoes.

Known locally as 'the shoe tree' the peculiar sight marks the beginning of the Mystic Trail — which now has an uncertain future.

Wandering down this trail, it passes a small log cabin with a sign saying "This is the home of the Three Bears," and continues on through an array of organic sculptures. The art ranges from the abstract (tree stumps that resemble faces) to the odd (several stuffed animals) and to the creepy (animal skulls covered in moss). The origins of the enchanted forest-inspired trail date back longer than any locals can remember, but even in this isolated spot, the trail has not escaped the long arm of the government.

Pinned to the Three Bears cabin is a B.C. Forests Ministry Trespass Notice, ordering the removal of "unauthorized occupation of items" from the Crown land site. The notice says it was given to "unknown" at an "unknown" address, but states all unauthorized structures must be moved by May 5. It's doubtful any of the structures got a building permit.

The home of the Three Bears.
The home of the Three Bears.

And while the origins of the trail may remain a mystery, locals still regard the enchanted forest trail as a much loved and well used hidden gem.

One trail user, who didn't want to be named, said the government intervention was ridiculous, and that the trail had been around since he was young - more than 40 years ago. The hiker said it was his first time on the trail in a few years and it had previously contained more natural sculptures.

"I haven't seen it in this bad a shape before," he said.

And while some aspects of the trail are in disarray, and it does appear someone may have been camping out in the Three Bears cabin, the trail still remains a favourite summer visiting spot.

Tammy Pharand said the Mystic Trail was a great place to take her kids and out of town visitors.

Some of the art along the trail is a little creepy.
Some of the art along the trail is a little creepy.

"[The] kids love skipping ahead to 'discover' all the creations in the woods," Pharand told iNFOnews.ca. Others on social media expressed shock, sadness and anger, that the Mystic Trail's creations were facing eviction.

Structures dot the trail
Structures dot the trail
Lumby and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Stephanie Sexsmith says over the years more plastic creations have turned up on the trail, whereas the original sculptures were natural and made of wood, moss and rock. The trail does feature several stuffed animals attached to trees as well as plastic toy soldiers and other oddities. Sexsmith said the "Dollar Store" items weren't in keeping with the spirit of the Mystic Trail.

And like everybody else, Sexsmith didn't know the origins of how old the trail was or how it came about.

The Monashee Arts Council asked its members if anyone could remember how old the trail was, but no one could. Shuswap Trail Alliance executive director Phil McIntyre-Paul admitted he hadn't heard of the Mystic Trail. Others said the trail outdated their time living in Lumby.

Several sources thought members staying at the private campsite neighbouring the trail, owned by the Gyro Club of Vernon, were responsible for its creation and added organic sculptures each year. However, Gyro Club president Rob Prasloski is adamant the trail had nothing to do with them, was not on their land, and he had no idea about its origins.

So what is the fate of the three bears cabin and its surrounding art?

The forest is watching.
The forest is watching.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development told iNFOnews.ca that a clean-up of the trail was planned to remove "materials that pose a risk to the public." The Ministry listed glass, plastic and plywood structures, along with screws and nails attached to trees - which can be detrimental to a tree's health.

"Items that are safe, and add to the trail’s character, will be left," the ministry said. What items stay and what is removed is now in their hands.

Lumby resident Bruce Borrowman was optimistic about the future of the trail.

"It's a public art installation... given time, somebody will start something else," he said.

Some of the 'art' doesn't seem particularly fitting.
Some of the 'art' doesn't seem particularly fitting.

B.C. Ministry Trespass Notice.
B.C. Ministry Trespass Notice.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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