Shuswap men who restored historic fire lookout facing possible $10,000 fine - InfoNews

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Shuswap men who restored historic fire lookout facing possible $10,000 fine

Eagle Pass fire lookout.
Image Credit: Rene St. Onge
March 06, 2018 - 8:00 PM

SICAMOUS - Volunteers who used elbow grease and donated money to restore a B.C. treasure may still lose it all — and receive thousands of dollars in fines — now that an investigation into their 'unauthorized' activities is complete. 

Rene St. Onge, one of the volunteers who performed the restoration of the aging Eagle Pass Fire Lookout, says he learned the results of the Ministry of Forests' investigation roughly three weeks ago. The investigation was to determine if a violation under the Forest and Range Practices Act had been committed. 

“They’re recommending a $10,000 fine and remediation of the cabin, possibly returning it to the majestic pile of rocks,” St. Onge says.

READ MORETiny cabin in the mountains is historic, stunning, and tied up in 'bureaucratic BS'

The months-long investigation by the Ministry of Forests and Natural Resource Operations was launched after an inquiry by a local trails group alerted them to the “unauthorized” construction activities. St. Onge maintains that he was given permission by the Ministry of Forests and Front Counter B.C. to fix up the lookout.

The lookout in 2015.
The lookout in 2015.
Image Credit: Rene St. Onge

“It (investigation) is such a waste of taxpayers money. It was probably six months of work,” St. Onge says. “I don’t know why they’re going forward with this.”

The next step in the government process is an opportunity for St. Onge and his partner on the restoration project, Guy Maris, to be heard before a “delegated decision maker” who can either order the site left as is, levy a penalty, or order remediation of the site. The hearing is set for May 9 in Vernon. 

St. Onge says he has a lawyer and will present his facts to the decision maker with the hope that the site is left as is for the public to enjoy. He hopes the decision maker will deviate from the Ministry's recommendation. 

“If they try to fine us and tear it down there will be thousands of people protesting,” he says.

The historic Eagle Pass lookout was restored by volunteers and paid for through fundraising efforts and out of pocket over the past couple of years.

READ MORE: Internal government emails reveal frustration behind 'unauthorized' fire lookout construction

The Ministry of Forests confirmed in an email that natural resource officers have completed their investigation, but would not comment on the recommendations until after the May 9 hearing. Previously, the Ministry said "if the construction of the cabin is found to be in violation of Forest and Range Practices Act, the ministry can pursue an administrative process whereby a decision-maker would have the authority to order the site left as is, levy a penalty, and/or remediation of the site. During this administrative process, those involved with the construction of the cabin would have the opportunity to present their rationale to the decision maker."

There is substantial community support for the building to be left as is, and the volunteers who restored it applauded, not penalized.

The Splatsin band, District of Sicamous and MLA Greg Kyllo have previously expressed support for leaving the structure the way it is. A petition to keep the Province from demolishing the structure has nearly 9,000 signatures. 

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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