Shown above: Graham Woolsey and John Crowley, two of the contractors working under Woolsey Woodworking on the Clemina Creek shelter.
By: Laura Keil
A new Clemina shelter will be a refuge for cold and weary sledders this winter.
The 600sq ft cabin in the Clemina Creek Managed Snowmobile Area will replace an old one that was small and surrounded by sensitive wetland. Located along the Clemina Creek Forest Service Road near the Goat Ridge access trail, it will also offer a bigger more comfortable space for users.
VARDA General Manager Curtis Pawliuk says the shelter’s main purpose is for an emergency – to store search and rescue equipment and act as a base of operations. But it is also a rest stop for sledders allowing them to build a fire and warm up. In the old shelter, groups of sledders would have to cycle through to warm up, since they often could not fit everyone inside.
Pawliuk says the whole cost of the project – some $125,000 – is being paid for entirely through donations and VARDA savings. People have also made in-kind donations for the stove, a BBQ and the deck rail system among others.
“The sled community has come together, there’s been no grant revenue whatsoever, or government funding,” he says.
Woolsey woodworking is doing the construction of the cabin, which includes a 20x32ft covered patio.
“We’re so happy to have them work on this,” Pawliuk says. “They’re doing a fantastic job. It’ll keep people warm and be a great emergency shelter.”
Pawliuk says VARDA initially wanted to build a cabin at Chappell Creek, but they were turned down by the Province last year due to the proximity of Mountain Cariboo habitat and heli-ski terrain.
After being declined for Chappell Creek, the VARDA board decided to put the money towards replacing and moving their Clemina Creek Cabin which was attracting ATVers, hunters and hikers in the summer. During winter, there is no direct contact with the ground due to the snow, but summertime ATVs have led to concerns around damage to the sensitive environment.
“The potential for conflict, and environmental damage in Clemina and the inadequate size of the Clemina Creek cabin, it just made sense,” Pawliuk told the Goat last year. He estimates the area sees 4,500 users annually during the winter snowmobile season.
He says VARDA has been putting away money for a new shelter at Chappell Creek for many years; that money will now go towards the Clemina project.
VARDA maintains four day-use cabins or shelters in the Valemount area, which are used primarily by snowmobilers. Pawliuk says this is the first cabin they have built in many years.
He told the Goat last year that the upgrades are important as many communities are fighting for a fixed number of sledders.
“There are lots of communities ‘up and coming’ that are doing this type of stuff. We need to start refurbishing our infrastructure for sure.”
He says some of the improved usability comes from having more room around the fire, having drying racks, and a covered patio. It will also include a pit toilet.
The cabin, while built primarily for winter snowmobile use, is open to any backcountry user for day-use activities.
Pawliuk says they are looking for a group to take the former Clemina Cabin once it is removed this winter. Pawliuk says it could be used elsewhere in the valley as a shelter.