It will likely take between three and five years, and several million dollars, to repair the KVR trail near Princeton following the November floods, according to the province.
“There is significant damage between Princeton and Brodie. Staff are preparing assessments and plans for response and recovery,” said a spokesperson for the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD).
According to the ministry, the bridge near the tunnel in Princeton is a concern, as is most of the Tulameen River canyon section.
“It’s pretty much gone. It’s pretty much desecrated,” said Area H director Bob Coyne.
The province owns the trail, while its stewardship and maintenance falls to the Regional District of South Okanagan Similkameen.
The priority right now is road repair, Coyne added.
AIM Roads, the area maintenance company, is currently hustling to repair more than 60 roads and areas of Highway 3 in the district. That work needs to be done before the spring freshnet, he explained, otherwise there will be more damage.
“Roads are more important…People have got to be safe on the highways. Recreation is important, but we have to have our transportation corridors come first,” Coyne said.
Ed Vermette, president of Princeton’s ATV Club, told the Spotlight it’s too early to know the extent of the damage. “I know of at least five washouts between (Princeton) and Tulameen.
“The main one would be the trestle just outside of town…We are talking about a lot of money to do these repairs, and I don’t know where that money is coming from yet.”
Vermette runs one of the largest ATV clubs in the province, and was a strong proponent of opening the trail to off-road vehicles in 2019, and of trail improvements and promoting ATV tourism.
That those efforts were literally washed away is “disheartening,” said Vermette.
“I was more concerned with the citizens that were affected by the flood in Tulameen, Coalmont and Princeton, rather than the KVR.”
However, he added he is already working with other ATV groups to explore funding opportunities for eventual restoration.
Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne echoed others’ concerns about the trestle over the Tulameen River, near the KVR tunnel southwest of town.
It appears that some footings have shifted, and part of the bridge’s upper structure is hanging towards the water.
Freshnet could further compromise the bridge, he said.
“If something was to damage it further or put stress on it, we don’t know what could happen,” the mayor said.
It’s possible a partial collapse of the bridge could create a dam that would threaten a nearby town well with flooding, or it could put debris into the river that would put town assets like the Brown Bridge at risk.
There are currently discussions about getting an engineer assessment of the bridge. “This is completely in the hands of the provincial government.”
A FLNRORD spokesperson said it’s important that people avoid the trail.
“We are planning on better blockading (for) safety concerns and for now, ask trail users to stay off of most of the KVR,” stated the ministry.
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