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Mara Mountain Lookout trail restoration in Shuswap nearing completion

Shuswap Trail Alliance undertaking wildfire impact assessments
The Shuswap Trail Alliance’s Mara Mountain Lookout trail restoration project is nearing completion, including the replacement of about 500 metres of boardwalk and several bridges along the historic pack trail. (Photo contributed)

The long process of restoring trails lost to the Bush Creek East wildfire will begin with wildfire impact assessments.

Assessments for two of those trails, the Mount Baldy and the Scotch Creek/Hlina lookout trails, are being initiated by the Shuswap Trail Alliance (STA) with Forsite Consultants Ltd.

“We are working with Forsite who will be creating a process for us, as well as doing the initial assessments,” said STA executive director Jen Bellhouse.

The assessments will take into account danger trees and slope stability.

“There will be slope stability assessments required because soil becomes hydrophobic after a fire so it’s a longer process for that,” said Bellhouse, noting the process will involve reassessing slope stability after year of snow melt and precipitation, to see how slopes impacted by the fire are holding up – recognizing there may be slides.

The STA is only assessing these two trails, for which the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) has partnership agreements. Bellhouse said BC Parks is going through a similar process for its trails impacted by the wildfire.

“We did speak with one of their staff just last week actually, and it sounds pretty severe for a lot of the trails, so they’re in the same place,” said Bellhouse. “They’re doing impact impact assessments and will determine the work that needs to be done from there. Public safety is the number one thing coming out of this.”

The STA is able to undertake the assessments with provincial government approval to use $20,000 leftover from another project, the restoration of the Mara Mountain Lookout Trail. Delayed in summer 2021 due to a wildfire near Sicamous, after this summer that project is nearing completion.

“We have replaced close to 500 metres of boardwalk and several bridges in the historic pack trail that went from the cache cabin up to the fire lookout on Mara,” said Bellhouse, explaining the cache cabin was the halfway point between Sicamous and the lookout, and supplies would be left there for the person staying at the lookout.

“The bottom half of the trail is great. There’s still a little bit of work for route finding on the top portion from the snowmobile cabin up. It’s a great… half day hike. I actually just did it a couple of weeks ago and it’s beautiful in there. The crew also built a new outhouse by the cache cabin. It’s up on stairs because a lot of snowmobilers use the area in the winter… it’s very fancy.”

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Also keeping the STA busy this summer were a couple of projects with the Regional District of the North Okanagan, including one involving gravel capping the Mabel Lake trail around the golf course and another smaller trail out that way. As well, there was plenty of trail maintenance along the area’s larger networks including South Canoe.

“South Canoe takes up a lot of our time and we’re super grateful for MRDT for additional funding for event readiness,” said Bellhouse.

Looking to 2024, Bellhouse said the STA will be working with the CSRD to build a universal trail around Loftus Lake in Blind Bay, and to improve the recreation site at Glenemma.

In addition to the Mara Lookout trail, another success for the STA this season came in the form of crew members it was able to hire through its Junior Trail Camp program.

“It’s definitely been more of a challenge to hire trail crew and I think part of that is we’re limited to the folks in Salmon Arm – because finding seasonal accommodation is almost non-existent,” said Bellhouse, adding the STA has had people apply to work with on its trail crew but could not take the job due to the lack of accommodation. Bellhouse said the STA board started the trail camp last year, open to the middle and high school students, to give them experience with different aspects of what the work crew position entails.

“We did hire one of those individuals to work on the field crew this year,” said Bellhouse, who is hopeful students hired will return in subsequent years.

“We had three students who worked part time last year who came back this year and all asked to be full time,” said Bellhouse. “So it was great. It was a great trail crew this year.”

For more information about the Shuswap Trail Alliance, visit

Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor of the Salmon Arm Observer, Shuswap Market, and Eagle Valley News. I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to keep our readers informed and engaged.
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