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Options presented for future of former Eagle Pass fire lookout in Shuswap

Several possibilities have been raised for the future of the Eagle Pass cabin, a derelict fire lookout in the Shuswap that was rebuilt by unauthorized volunteers in 2016.

The Shuswap Trail Alliance recently published the results of discussions they facilitated between groups interested in the future of the alpine cabin. Represented in the discussion were Rec Sites and Trails B.C., which manages the area around the cabin, the Alpine Club of Canada, the District of Sicamous, Splatsin, the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club and other recreation groups and businesses.

The summary of the discussion so far presents information on the history of the cabin, its current condition and plans for its future.

The current structure was built on the site of the disused ruin of a former wildfire lookout station. In 2016 and 2017, volunteers built a flat-roofed cabin on the existing foundation. A stop-work order was eventually posted on the cabin and those who built it faced fines for repairing the structure on Crown land without the proper authorization.

The engagement report, which was the result of discussions that took place in 2020, notes Rec Sites and Trails BC found no precedent for the BC Government retroactively authorizing the use of a structure built without their permission.

Read More: Reconstructed Eagle Pass cabin avoids demolition

Read More: Man fighting $20,000 in fines for Eagle Pass cabin construction

Also presented was a habitat impact statement which notes the area of the cabin is used by mountain caribou, mountain goats and grizzly bears. It recommends restricted helicopter access to the area , the installation of signage warning people to leave the area clean, not feed wildlife and keep their distance from animals. It also suggests that if the cabin is opened to the public, it should be locked in the winter to minimize the disturbance to the goats and caribou. The impact statement says overnight use should not be permitted unless proper waste management is put in place.

Seven options were identified for the future of the hut. The possibility of using the cabin as is was raised but the Trail Alliance report notes that Rec Sites and Trails cannot authorize it and the current structure does not comply with heritage building standards. A ground-up reconstruction of the lookout, beginning with a restored foundation and resulting in a building that replicates the design of the original lookout, was presented as a second option. A compromise, which would bring in building conservation experts to use materials that are already on site but bring the cabin up to the heritage building standard was also presented.

Restoring the cabin to the condition it was in before the volunteers started work on it in 2016, essentially reducing it back to a roofless ruin, was presented as an option but backlash from the local community was noted as a possibility if this was pursued.

A complete removal of the cabin, moving it to a new foundation and taking no action at all rounded out the possible options.

Read More: Hearing set to determine fate of Eagle Pass cabin

Read More: Splatsin embrace Eagle Pass lookout project

The future management and maintenance of the cabin were also discussed. The Trail Alliance report notes the possibility of the Alpine Club of Canada taking over the management of the cabin. According to the report, the alpine club manages 35 huts and has systems in place for booking stays. They also have experience with older buildings and with the construction and maintenance of outhouses.

Gord Bushell, a District of Sicamous counsellor who was the general manager of the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club when the cabin was rebuilt, said the club is also interested in taking over management. He noted the snowmobile club has another cabin about a kilometre away from the Eagle Pass cabin and has also been seeking a management agreement for another old fire lookout on Mara Mountain. He said the snowmobile club has enough money to conduct repairs and put a more suitable roof on the Eagle Pass cabin

According to the Shuswap Trail Alliance report, Rec Sites and Trails BC will have to make a final decision and draft an adaptive management plan for the area.



jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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