BC Parks has no immediate plan to reopen part of the Kettle Valley Railway trail near Othello Tunnels.
The area south of the fifth tunnel in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park has been closed since May 25, when about 80 cubic metres of rock debris rushed down the mountainside. A large portion of the rubble tumbled over the bank and into the river.
“Some large boulders came down and took out about half the trail bed away,” said Tom Blackbird, acting regional manger for BC Parks. “There was no real known cause, but it was probably vibration in the ground. I think it’s just a combination of the wet weather and the freezing over winter. When you get the ice in there it’s basically making the cracks bigger.”
BC Parks is currently working on a plan to repair the damage and reopen the trail next spring. An engineer is being brought in to review the options and provide cost estimates. Blackbird said part of the analysis includes looking at whether federal funding could be available because the route is part of the Trans-Canada Trail.
“It’s going to be a really expensive repair,” he added. “We’re going to have to look at some form of catching or rebuilding that lower part of the trail. We don’t know the stability of the trail bed itself, let alone the material that’s up on the slope.”
In the meantime, the area remains fenced off due to safety concerns. Blackbird said people shouldn’t be climbing over the rock due to the narrow edge and unstable slope.
Inge Wilson, manager of the Hope Visitor Centre & Museum, said the closure is having a negative impact by deterring visitors.
“It’s definitely a tourism asset we miss,” she said. “There’s an economic impact and there’s also an active living aspect. “
Cyclists are currently being detoured along the narrow and winding Othello Road, where they have to compete with large transport trucks heading to and from the Nestle Waters Canada bottling facility.
The closure is also affecting Sue VandeVelde-Savola, who owns nearby At Kw’o:kw’e:hala Eco Vacation Retreat. She gets many clients who come specifically to cycle along the trail.
“It’s certainly a disappointment,” she said. “There’s a very recognizable drop in cyclists, not only tourism traffic but local area recreational traffic. Until you lose something, people don’t realize how much it’s used. Then it’s very noticeable how much it impacts people.”