Lookout restored by volunteers could be removed after provincial investigation

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Restored fire lookout could be removed by province – Mar 8, 2018

Thousands of dollars and hundreds of volunteer hours went into restoring an old fire lookout in the Shuswap — but it’s unclear whether the group of volunteers had the right approvals to go ahead with the job — and now all their hard work could be reversed.

Last year the province issued a stop-work order preventing volunteers from putting the finishing touches on the Eagle Pass fire lookout they were restoring.

That stop-work order on the lookout, which is located high on a mountaintop between Revelstoke and Sicamous, was issued even though those working on the project thought they got permission to go ahead from a FrontCounter BC staff member.

“When I left, I shook hands with him and he was like, ‘I can give you approval on that one, but if you are doing a new trail or new cabin then we have to go through the application process,’” Rene St. Onge, who worked on the restoration, said in October.

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Provincial officials also launched an investigation into whether the project contravened part of the Forest and Range Practices Act, which requires written permission for rehabilitation of recreation facilities on Crown land.

READ MORE: Volunteer effort to reconstruct Shuswap fire lookout in limbo as province investigates

That investigation has now wrapped up. St. Onge told InfoNews the recommended outcome is a $10,000 fine and remediation of the site.

Over 10,000 people who are concerned the province might tear down the rebuilt lookout have signed an online petition against any demolition.

The next step is a hearing this spring. After that, the province said a statutory decision-maker will decide if the building should be removed or modified and whether there should be a penalty.

The issue caught the attention of Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo, who spoke out in favour of keeping the structure.

“I truly do hope that whatever the decision is, that when they say remediate, they are not looking at destroying the structure,” the Liberal MLA said.

“We’ve got a considerable amount of work that has been done, an asset that [is] actually to the benefit of the entire region.”
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Global News requested an interview with a provincial spokesperson but the ministry responsible said it can’t comment further until the hearing process is finished.

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