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Restoration work on Shuswap fire lookout won’t have to be reversed, province says

Over 13,000 people who are concerned the province might tear down the rebuilt Eagle Pass fire lookout have signed an online petition against any demolition. On March 7, 2019 the province announced the restoration work would not be required to be reversed. Courtesy: Rene St. Onge

After holding off making a decision for many months, the province confirmed Thursday that it will not require the restoration work on a historic Shuswap fire lookout to be taken down.

The province said the fire lookout will be allowed to stay, but will be considered unsafe for use until follow-up assessments have been completed.

Thousands of dollars and hundreds of volunteer hours went into restoring the Eagle Pass fire lookout. The project, however, came under provincial scrutiny after questions arose about whether the group of volunteers undertaking the work had the right approvals to go ahead with the job.

READ MORE: Lookout restored by volunteers could be removed after provincial investigation

In 2017, the province issued a stop-work order, preventing volunteers from putting the finishing touches on the lookout, and 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.

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There were concerns that the province might require the restoration work on the lookout located high on a mountaintop between Revelstoke and Sicamous to be reversed or fine the volunteer organizers. Over 13,000 people added their names to an online petition against any demolition.

WATCH: Restored fire lookout could be removed by province (March, 2018)

Click to play video: 'Restored fire lookout could be removed by province' Restored fire lookout could be removed by province
Restored fire lookout could be removed by province – Mar 8, 2018

For personal privacy reasons, the province said it can’t release information related to any potential penalties faced by those who worked on the project except through a Freedom of Information Act request.

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

A volunteer who worked on the project told Global News the group thought they had permission to go ahead with the work from a FrontCounter BC staff member.

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“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 2017.

Tragically, St. Onge was killed while guiding a group of snowmobilers near Sicamous last December.

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