Severe weather has taken a heavy toll on a number of the Shuswap’s premier trails.
In the past year or so, the Gorge Creek Loop Trail in Craigellachie, and the Upper Bear Creek Flume Trail in Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park both suffered at the hands of nature which, in some cases, caused substantial infrastructure damage that will cost thousands of dollars to repair. In the case of the Gorge Trail, a temporary closure is even being considered, though this also relates to access.
Sometime over the winter and spring, heavy blowdown made much of the Gorge Trail inaccessible. A provincial Rapattack crew subsequently cleaned and cleared a lot of the trail, though a quarter of the loop is still unsafe.
“The infrastructure got quite battered this past season… some bridges got damaged and stuff, and the repairs are quite expensive,” said Shuswap Trail Alliance executive director Phil McIntyre-Paul. “So that’s where they’re looking at it, saying, ‘wait a minute, if we invest in those repairs, we should be looking at the whole package.’”
The ‘whole package’ McIntyre-Paul referred to has to do with access to the trail head, which involves crossing the Trans-Canada Highway from the Last Spike tourist attraction where parking is available. McIntyre-Paul says the province is considering a temporary closure of the trail system until a solution can be found.
The Gorge falls under the purview of Recreation Sites and Trails BC, a branch of the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Ministry spokesperson Greig Bethel confirms a potential closure and/or alteration of the trail is currently under review.
While the public may still access the Gorge Trail, those attempting to hike the Upper Flume will be greeted by a closure sign. Some of the bridges and wooden walkways were thoroughly damaged by a washout last year, while other aging bridges still standing are considered unsafe. Unlike the Gorge, the Flume’s future is looking good.
McIntyre-Paul explained it is part of the Roderick Haig-Brown provincial park trail system, which falls under the jurisdiction of BC Parks and the Ministry of Environment. With this being a dominant year for the Salmon Run, BC Parks prioritized upgrades and repairs for the Salute to the Sockeye event, which could see upwards of 350,000 visitors.
BC Parks recreation section head for the Thompson Cariboo region, Adrian Wynnyk confirms this is what has happened, and says the Upper Flume will see repairs in next year’s budget, possibly as early as June.
The major work on the trail will be replacing the bridges, which Wynnyk estimates may cost between $20,000 and $30,000 apiece. However, the replacement structures will have a longer lifespan as they will incorporate steel stringers and girders, as opposed to more trees being taken down for use, as was done in the past.