The many hours of volunteer labour and thousands of dollars in materials put into the reconstruction of the Eagle Pass summit cabin will not have been in vain.
A year-and-half after the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development taped a stop-work order to the door of the 14-by-14 foot cabin and began an investigation into its reconstruction, the ministry has confirmed the structure will not be torn down.
“The statutory decision-maker did not order the structure to be removed or remediated,” states the ministry in a March 7 email.
Those behind the reconstruction of the former fire lookout, situated at the summit of the 7,500-foot Eagle Pass Mountain, said they’d been informed by the ministry they could be fined $10,000 each and the cabin could be demolished, as the province said there was no permission or permits approved to do the work.
An estimated $45,000 worth of labour and materials went into the reconstruction work done between 2016 and 2017.
Looking ahead, the ministry said the cabin is its property, and that “before the structure can be considered suitable for public use, it first must be assessed for safety, environmental risk and potential conflicts with other resource users.”
The posting of the stop-work-order in September 2017, and subsequent confirmation from the ministry that demolition was a possible outcome, sparked public and political interest to preserve the cabin for public use.
“If that was to be destroyed, it would be heinous,” commented Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz following a November 2017 visit to the cabin. “I mean, honest to god, it has got so much potential for us when it comes to tourism. When you’re in that building on the top of that pinnacle, you can see for miles and miles in every direction. It was an amazing experience.”
Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo spoke in favour of saving the structure, as did the Splatsin Indian Band council.
Meanwhile, a petition at change.org was set up, asking the ministry to not demolish the lookout.
“The Eagle Pass Summit fire lookout, built in 1922, was rebuilt by enthusiasts, who did their due diligence in trying to get a permit,” states the petition. “A Front Counter BC Government agent told them they didn’t need a permit to rebuild an existing structure, so they went ahead and rebuilt it. Now, “…representatives of Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. (part of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations) learned of the cabin being rebuilt and indicated it could be torn down.”
The petition has since closed with 13,368 signatures.
There have been calls among the snowmobiling community and elsewhere that the cabin be named after Rene St. Onge, one of the key volunteers behind the cabin’s reconstruction who died on Dec. 9, 2018.