Volunteers face fine from province for rebuilding historic lookout

Eagle Pass Lookout Photo courtesy of Rene St Onge/CBC.ca

A group of volunteers in B.C. are facing a $10,000 fine for restoring the historic Eagle Pass Lookout Cabin without the proper permits.

The volunteers, who claim they had verbal approval from the Ministry of Forests manager, are shocked at the province’s reaction.

“We don’t understand why they are going forward with this,” volunteer Rene St. Onge told the CBC.

The group had been working on the restoration for two years and had even had supplies flown in by helicopter since the remote cabin can only be accessed by foot.

Eagle Pass Lookout with helicopter
Photo courtesy of Rene St Onge/Sleddermag.com

They had very publicly raised money for the project on social media and were under the impression that they had all the approval they needed. Indeed, it wasn’t until after the cabin’s construction was complete that they received a stop work order from the Ministry of Forests.

“We took two years, and we didn’t try and hide that we were fixing it up,” said St. Onge.

Now, the group is not only facing a hefty fine, but the cabin itself may be torn down by the authorities.

The cabin, which was originally built in the 1920s, sits on Monashee Mountains and was a hiking destination for decades. It had fallen into disrepair after the ceiling caved in in the 1960s.

Rebulding the Eagle Pass fire Lookout
Photo courtesy of Rene St Onge/Sleddermag.com

The group spent $40,000 restoring it and installed a reinforced roof which doubles as a helicopter pad. Unfortunately, it’s this feature that has raised some eyebrows. While the volunteers claim it was put in place to ensure search-and-rescue teams could more easily airlift stranded hikers, some are concerned it may be used for heli skiing.

“My understanding in talking with these guys is that they just wanted to build it as a hiking feature. We completely support that,” Phil McIntyre-Paul, the executive director of the Shuswap Trail Alliance, told the CBC.

“But if what they’re saying is we want to use it as a heli landing pad for heli skiing, that’s a whole other question. That’s a high level use and that’s why there’s a process in place to think this through and think about the ecological impact.”

Despite these misgivings, McIntyre-Paul says he doesn’t want to see the cabin torn down.

Currently, the fate of the cabin still hangs in the balance. The Ministry of Forests told the CBC that the volunteers will be able to explain their position in a May hearing that will determine what happens to the cabin.

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