DESTRUCTION OF CABINS….OCTOBER, 2013

Bowron Lake Provincial Park
Destruction of Cabins

Last October I canoed with family and friends to enjoy Thanksgiving at Pat’s Point on the Bowron Lake Chain’s Spectacle Lake. Before leaving on this trip I had heard from other travellers that the Ranger Cabin at Pat’s Point had been destroyed. When our group arrived, a construction crew was working feverishly to finish a replacement structure, it was to be inspected by Parks officials the following day and the crew was wanting to use the helicopter that would be transporting these officials, to fly out both their construction equipment and themselves.

The new building is indeed a fir post and beam “fixed roof” duplex, we noted fibreglass shower stalls waiting to installed…it is a beautiful building. We understood the former Ranger Cabin had been cut into firewood, we were allowed to help ourselves and took a canoe load of the dry, 12”- 14”diameter rounds to the campground. These had been house logs, not cabin logs and they were in pristine condition. This experience has raised a RED FLAG for anyone concerned about the future of Bowron Lake Provincial Park and this is being written because I have very real concerns about the Park Use Development Plan. Specifically, there is a current program of destruction of cabins and shelters in the Park that appears misguided, implies a misuse of taxpayer funds and which is definitely occurring without consultation.

We live in a time when those BC Parks officials entrusted with the management of our “provincial protected area systems” must be sensitive to the needs, wishes and recommendations of the concerned general public. Recognition of this fact seems to be well appreciated under the heading of Shared Stewardship in the 2012 -13 BC Parks Annual Report and it is certainly an integral part of the 2002 Bowron Lake Management Plan. As a well informed member of the concerned general public and as a frequent Park visitor, I was unaware of the decision to destroy the Pat’s Point Ranger Cabin.
What are the intentions of Park managers with regards to greater consumer involvement in the planning for and development of Bowron Lake Provincial Park?

It simply isn’t acceptable to destroy existing buildings and places of known historical significance without at least documenting their provenance. Archaeological assessments are now a preliminary and integral part of any major building or highway construction project or logging operation. The rationale is to determine just what was/is present before the building or place is changed forever. If warranted, plans may be changed based on the information that becomes available.

The cabin in question was possibly the newest log structure on the Chain but this fact does nothing to diminish its significance from a historical perspective. Despite the clearly stated good intentions and clear directives in Section 4.6 — Cultural Heritage of the 2002 Bowron Lake Park Management Plan, it is not really known if B.C.Parks has documented the provenance of any of the dwellings and significant structures and places that have been part of the Park, both past and present.
If necessary, will an attempt be made to change this oversight and will documenting the provenance of the Park’s significant structures and places become an ongoing priority?

If a Statement of Significance has been completed, the Pat’s Point Ranger Cabin will most likely have been described as a prominent log building in excellent condition, constructed of locally available materials. Its appearance, method of construction and place of construction would have been documented. Further the person(s) who did the construction would have been identified, all of these facts could prove to be very valuable from a historical and heritage perspective. The time of construction would then be set into a context. What was going on in the Park and it’s evolution when this building was constructed, why was it constructed at that time, how does it relate to other existing structures? With all of this information the story of the Bowron unfolds. Often as this information emerges, it influences the decision making process.

I was told by the construction workers at the Pat’s Point site that the destruction and replacement of the Pat’s Point Ranger Cabin was the first of four such projects scheduled to take place in the Park over the next few years. I have heard that in the spring of 2014, plans are to repeat this scenario at the site of the Indianpoint Lake Ranger Cabin. If this information is factual, there is time to change those plans. At the very least it is necessary to prepare a Statement of Significance of the Indianpoint cabin before levelling it, but ideally to step back and to look at the decisions that may be in place in light of the comments coming forward from concerned individuals as well as from the information that the Statement of Significance will provide.
Are there plans to demolish the Indianpoint Lake Ranger Cabin in 2014? Are other cabins or structures scheduled for destruction in the next few years?

How much did it cost at Bowron Lake Park to build a fir post and beam “fixed roof” duplex off site and then to assemble it in the middle of a wilderness park with all materials, tools, supplies and workers being helicoptered in and out?
This information is certainly available on someone’s hard drive, failing this it should be available through a request under the B.C. Freedom of Information Act. The cost of helicopter time alone is said to be over $1,000.00 per hour and on Thanksgiving Sunday, 2013, I watched the helicopter come and go to the construction site at Pat’s Point for about seven hours. This money is being spent at a time when there is a clear and long standing need for major capital improvements elsewhere in the Park. The Park’s portage trails are in rough shape and if the policy of the use of canoe carts is to be continued, they must be upgraded. The trail to the Cariboo Falls has been closed for a couple of years due to hazardous beetle kill. The 1926 Joe Wendle cabin, the oldest extant structure on the Chain is dangerously close to sliding into the Upper Bowron River.

Why build this replacement building in the first place? There was nothing wrong with the existing Ranger Cabin. The logs were in excellent condition, it was a sound, serviceable structure, it blended with the environment, it looked like it belonged, in fact it had been built of materials that came from the very place in which it was standing. All log buildings require regular careful maintenance. Unlike other log structures on the Chain, this building had been reasonably well taken care of and because of its good condition, upgrades to the building would have been a fairly straightforward process.

Based on any information that is presently available to the general public, the new “fixed roof” post and beam duplexes are simply not required. However, if a case could be made for their construction, there are pressing alternate uses for the existing Ranger Cabins. If the Pat’s Point Ranger Cabin was redundant, why couldn’t it have been moved, disassembling and moving a log building is not a particularly difficult task? Shelter cabins are one of the truly special features of the Bowron Chain, when wet and cold and at the end of a long day of physical exertion, nothing is as inviting (and sometimes as necessary) as a shelter cabin with a warm heater…no matter what the season. Why couldn’t the Pat’s Point Ranger Cabin have been used to augment the number of aging shelter cabins that are available to the paddling public, particularly as there is indeed a demand for such shelters.
What steps are Park managers taking to ensure that no more cabins will be destroyed and that if replaced, the existing Ranger Cabins will become much needed shelter cabins?

I would ask that you please reflect and comment on the following points:

1. management of public parks must involve consumer/volunteer input and this simply has not been happening with Bowron Lake Provincial Park despite the “official” declaration that this should be the case.
2. documentation of the provenance of the existing structures is unclear, is our link with the past being severed?
3. the exorbitant cost and the waste associated with replacing the existing structures is a source of major fiscal concern.
4. with the absence of public consultation and explanation, the incongruence of the proposed replacement structures gives rise to justifiable speculation.
5. there are reasons to suspect that these clandestine developments will have a long lasting destructive impact on the true Bowron Lake paddling experience.

The 2002 Parks Management Plan clearly states that Bowron Lake Provincial Park exists to offer a “wilderness paddling experience for the intermediate level paddler.” Those who have paddled the Chain and who have grown to appreciate it would suggest that this goal has been attained. Where do fixed roof duplexes fit into this goal?

I hope that I have been able to illustrate the importance of these current developments in Bowron Lake Provincial Park regarding their severe negative impact on the historical, natural and experiential objectives relative to this park.

If you have questions, comments or concerns regarding this issue, please contact:

Mr. Dave Zevick Hon.                                               Mary Polak, Minister,
Section Head                                                            Government of British Columbia,
BC Parks, Cariboo Section                                       Ministry of Environment,
Ministry of Environment,                                           P.O. Box 9047,
Thompson Cariboo Region                                      STN. PROV GOVT,
400-640 Borland Street,                                           Victoria, B.C.
Williams Lake, B.C,                                                   V8W 9E2,
V2G 4T1                                                                   Tel. 250 387-1187
Tel. 250 398-4888                                                    Email: ENV.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Cel. 250 267-4205
Email: Dave.Zevick@gov.bc.ca

This document was prepared by Jeffrey Dinsdale jdinsdale@xplornet.ca
February 13, 2014

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