Backcountry views like this one taken along the Avalanche trail are at risk of being lost with deactivation of forest roads. /SEAN PROCKTER

By Andrea Arnold

Access to yet another backcountry recreation area in McBride is slated for deactivation beginning in August.

Sean Procktor, one of the Directors with the Ozalenka Alpine Club, created an online petition hoping to halt the deactivation. 

The club received word that the Ministry of Forests is planning to deactivate 2.1km of Forest Service Road beginning just past the bridge at 15.7km on the South Dore. This will include all roads beyond this point. Bridges including the bridge over the South Dore River, culverts and major structures are to be removed and the area placed into a ‘self-maintaining state.’

“The removal of this bridge will render the Avalanche Trail inaccessible for any future recreational opportunities,” said Procktor. “We must speak up now to ensure the bridge remains intact if we ever want access to the Avalanche Trail in the future.”

Following the deactivation of the East Twin earlier this spring, the Ozalenka Alpine Club and other backcountry users have a real concern that a precedent has been set. 

Proktor said that in the past, there was a verbal understanding between the Club and Rec Sites and Trails (RST) that if the South Dore road were ever deactivated, the road would then roll over to Rec Sites and Trails and become part of the Avalanche Trail. This would extend the hiking distance to include the formally vehicle accessible road, but there would still be access to the trail.

This type of transition has already occurred for both the Kristi and Eagle Valley Trails without any issues; however, Procktor says this deactivation appears to be different. 

“We have great concern that even if Rec Sites and Trails takes over this part of the road, the South Dore River bridge will still be removed and the trail will be decommissioned. If this occurs, the Avalanche Valley trail will no longer be accessible for foot traffic. Procktor says that the club does not have the means to install and maintain a new bridge over the South Dore.

Jeff Corbett, Ozalenka Alpine Club president says that the second bridge, over the smaller Avalanche Creek, could be replaced with a foot bridge, and maintained by the club. 

“It is in a state that it will need to be replaced soon regardless of deactivation or not,” he said. “There is a push now to get it done. If the bridge over the South Dore is taken out, then we no longer have vehicle access to bring in materials.” 

Corbett has been an active member of the back country community for many years. He has been part of discussions around the South Dore FSR over the past six or seven years. Because of his experiences he has been scouting possible alternate access options for the Avalanche Trail. However, none of the options provide the easy accessibility that is currently available. 

“If we need to, we can build four plus km of new trail that would meet up with the Eagle Valley trailhead and stay on the same side of the river, thus avoiding the need for the bridge that is scheduled for removal” he said. 

If this option became the only attainable way to maintain access, then scouting would have to occur, and the club would have to have their application to Rec Site and Trails approved before beginning trail construction.

“My intention, and that of the club, is to keep it open and accessible,” said Corbett. 

Following a recent conversation with a representative from Rec Site and Trails, Corbett is optimistic that there is an achievable option for accessibility to this trail even if the bridge is removed. 

The Club’s concerns were brought to the Outdoor Recreational Council of BC at their meeting on Monday July 17th. Procktor said that following the meeting he heard from Dave Wharton, president, that the topic was one of the main ones covered in that meeting. They made a decision to support the club’s opposition to deactivation and sent a letter to both George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests outlining the presented plan and voicing their objections. The letters were expected to reach the ministers by the end of the week, and the club awaits their response.

Corbett has seen groups go up against several deactivations, and anticipates many more. 

“When you look at the backcountry roads you need to ask which are the most important to the community, where to put resources and where do we put up a fight?” he said.“Which are high priority?” 

Corbett would like to see community feedback, all users of the backcountry, to prioritize the mountain roads, deciding what areas need to be kept open, and what areas could be closed. For example, he said that Carrier plans to deactivate the Centre Dore road at 6km when they are done logging in a few years, and that would lose the current access to Ozalenka and complete access to Kristi Glacier. 

“The South Dore is one fight, only one example of backcountry road access,” he said. 

In order to help spread awareness, Procktor created an online petition “Save the Avalanche Trail – Stop Bridge Removal,” that he has been updating with information as it has become available. As of Monday afternoon, 847 people had signed the petition in support of maintaining access to the road and trail.