It is not the light at the end of the tunnel, but rather the lights in the tunnel that have had local residents thrilled as of recent.
The Princeton Tunnel is 1063 feet long, 324 metres. For the past several years, the lights installed to brighten the long dark passageway have been hit and miss at best. Vandals and antiquated electrical have combined to leave the tunnel in darkness most of the time.
Vermilion Trails Society past president Judy Short and current president Kim Maynard have spent a great deal of time discussing the tunnel problems with their group hoping for answers. Grant monies secured through the GamesTown 2010 win last year, a donation from Gisborne Industries, and through both the provincial and federal government have combined with the Town of Princeton and Vermilion Trails Society to inject new life into the whole town core along the old abandoned rail line. The Kettle Valley rail trail through Princeton is part of the national Trans Canada Trail and has become a precious asset to the community. Tourists around the world travel along its length at various points and have much to say through the social media on what works and what doesn’t.
The Princeton Tunnel connects the Tulameen River Valley to the Similkameen River Valley. It was first built in 1910. Not only is the tunnel itself a local landmark, it is also a gateway to the red ochre bluffs long recognized for their trade value by the First Nations who were settled in the area.
“It was important for us to find a cost effective solution for the tunnel,” stated Maynard. “We looked at numerous lighting options, but really the criteria we had in mind followed three trains of thought. First and foremost, we knew we needed to tear out all the old electrical and we wanted the new system to run up the centre of the tunnel not along the side. Secondly, we wanted the new lighting to be vandal-proof to avoid the continual expenditure of replacement. Thirdly, we wanted the system to be as energy efficient as possible. Jim Barnes at Hayes Creek Electrical was just excellent with all of that.”
“Hayes Creek found us some LED lights that are vandal-proof, energy efficient and running up the centre like we requested,” continued Maynard. “We are just delighted with the results and know this new system will be using a way less power, is more reliable and is a very long overdue addition to our KVR trail. With the new lighting through town, the Bridge of Dreams, the Weyerhaeuser Roundhouse, the informational signage, the mural at Irly Bird, Phifer’s Fountain and now the lit Princeton Tunnel, this area is going to become more and more a destination location for tourists. We already have to requests for weddings on the Bridge of Dreams this summer.”
“The Vermilion Trails Society plans to continue working on all portions of our section of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail,” continued Maynard. “We have identified several rural areas in dire need of resurfacing and have been working with the regional district, the province and the federal government to locate funding for those neglected areas. Rural residents and trail users have provided our group with valuable input that is helping us target the locations of the least passable sections for all users and we hope to be addressing some of those spots very soon.”
While continuing to lobby the various levels of government for grant money, the Vermilion Trails Society has one other town project on their bucket list too. Since last summer, the club has been raising money to aid in the completion of Two Rivers Park near the Bridge of Dreams. They have contacted artist Mark Wong to design and build a large metal and molten glass scluptural piece for the park, but realize part of the art project must involve the completion of the initial landscaping first. “Our club has a lot of projects on our wish list,” concluded Maynard “and we hope to continue checking projects off that wish list as quickly as possible. One we will be addressing once it warms up is the caboose paint job. We got it partially prepped last fall, but as with most volunteer groups out time is limited for all our many projects. We just simply ran out of time to complete it, but we aren’t going anywhere and will be out there as soon as we can.”