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Inquiry by trails group prompted government investigation into tiny cabin at Eagle Pass lookout

Eagle Pass fire lookout.
Image Credit: Rene St. Onge
October 10, 2017 - 4:50 PM

SHUSWAP - The ‘complaint’ that prompted a government investigation into the Eagle Pass fire lookout near Sicamous wasn’t intended to derail the project, and wasn’t really a complaint at all, according to the group that brought it up.

Phil McIntyre Paul, the executive director of the Shuswap Trail Alliance, says they first heard about restoration work at the historic Eagle Pass fire lookout last fall.

“Suddenly, this rebuilt lookout appeared at the summit of one of the trails we were looking at upgrading,” McIntyre Paul says. “Everyone was surprised, not like ‘that shouldn’t have been approved’ because it’s something people have been talking about...  but more, ‘who’s behind this?’”

The cabin was mentioned at a regional stakeholder meeting, and representatives from Recreation Sites and Trails B.C., an arm of the Ministry of Forests, hadn’t heard about it either, McIntyre Paul says.

“They (Sites and Trails) were obliged to pursue it and find out what’s going on,” he says.

Now, the province is investigating the volunteers who did the work and says a few outcomes are possible including the site being “remediated”, left as is, or a penalty issued.

One of the volunteers behind the restoration work says the group had verbal approval from a government employee years ago and is frustrated the project is now mired in “bureaucratic BS.”

READ MORE: Tiny cabin in the mountains is historic, stunning, and tied up in 'bureaucratic BS'

For its part, McIntyre Paul says the Trail Alliance supports the project and wants to work with the volunteers, but feels proper procedures must be followed to protect the backcountry.

“We are concerned there was misdirection at the ministry level, because those processes that are in place are important for management, planning and working together,” McIntyre Paul says. “If everyone just went out building cabins and refurbishing things, we’d pretty quickly have worse management of the backcountry.”

He says the Trail Alliance has to go through various assessments, consultations and approvals to fix up trails in the backcountry and is concerned those same procedures got “bypassed” in this particular case.

He says the Trail Alliance is in the planning stage of upgrading the trail that leads to the Eagle Pass fire lookout.

“There’s a few hundred feet which are quite challenging. It needs some work, particularly if this (fire lookout) is upgraded and people are wanting to get up there,” he says.

He says it’s unfortunate that approvals take as long as they do with the Ministry of Forests, and points out that land management offices are, in his experience, under resourced for the huge amount of land in this province.

iNFOnews.ca has sent more questions to the Ministry of Forests but was told an interview may not be possible while the investigation is underway. 


To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston 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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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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