Water Bombers Here

The wild fire just East of us continues to grow. But we are blessed with a lot of help to keep us safe. These pictures from Monday are of water bombers taking up water from Otter Lake.

waterbomber plane flying away

Bob Stern writes “Here are some photos I took this evening at Otter Lake in Tulameen of the Conair Single Engine Air Tankers (SEAT) picking up water to fight the fire in Princeton. They flew about 10 loops of 12 minutes each, and there were six aircraft.”

two waterbombers coming in for water

Fire Threatens Coalmont

There are wildfires all over BC, thousands of people are displaced, and the province is in a state of emergency. The closest to us is 10 Km NE of Princeton. We are in the Kamloops Fire Centre area and if you want to know more, the active fires are listed on this web page.

Currently there are 146 firefighters, 8 helicopters, and 17 heavy equipment on the job. Check the Fire Centre for updates on this fire. Emergency Info BC has current information on evacuation alerts.

We are lucky that the wind has not carried a lot of smoke here, but it was still quite hazy on Tuesday. The current size of the fire is estimated at 2,700 hectares. Although it is still growing, there are fire breaks being constructed and it’s still looking like we will be fine here, although it is prudent to be prepared for evacuation nevertheless. §

Emporium Gone Now

The Emporium was the only store in Coalmont for many years but closed in 1988. It was built by Walt Smart and he moved from his previous location across the street in what is now called the Coalmont General Store. The hope was to add a second story later. That never came to be, and now it is all gone.

On Monday, June 26 Bob Reichert arrived with his big excavator and demolition began. The building had become quite derelict and there was not much to save except the memories. The new owners of the property plan to landscape the lot. One thing is for sure, the old familiar view when you enter Coalmont is very different and will take a little while to get used to.

The excavator starts work
The excavator starts work.
Most of the building is down
It doesn’t take long before most of it is ready to haul away.
The view at the beginning of town is different now
The view at the entrance to town is very different now.
View of Emporium July 19, 2015
Here is what the building looked like on July 19, 2015.

Our Cemetery Violated

Granite Creek Cemetery has once again been attacked by irreverent treasure seekers. Over the weekend there were more than sixteen holes dug by someone – presumably in search of interesting historical items. The desecration took place in the Chinese section, so it seems the impostors had some idea in mind relating to that culture, at least as it was in the early days of gold mining in this area. There is a sign at the historic graveyard with a map showing the layout of the plots.

Cemetery Plot Map Sign

The Granite Creek Cemetery is one of the few places where there is a memory of the many Chinese miners who came here and died here. They were not shown much respect in their day, and it behooves us to remember them now as they contributed much more to the life of the day and history of this Province than is generally written about. Other important pioneers of the area, such as Foxcrowle Cook, are also buried here. What some visitors may not know is that this little country graveyard is still in current use by local families, many of whom trace their roots back to those exciting days of the 1880s when Granite Creek attracted hard working pioneers who laid the foundation of what we have here today.

Cook headstone at Granite

For more information on Granite Creek visit granitecreekbc.ca

Update, 2017-05-28
A reader has requested that we post pictures of the actual holes dug. Here are four examples. There is an exhumed Chinese grave in each photo, so you can judge the proximity and size of the holes that were dug over the May Long Weekend. This is less than half of them. Some of them overlap, leaving an area about 2 metres across disturbed. This is actually a delicate archaeological situation and requires more than usual sensitivity on the part of visitors.

grave site disturbance (1)

grave site disturbance (2)

grave site disturbance (3)

grave site disturbance (4)

Granite Shows New Life

GCPS web site picture
By George Elliott

Signs of Life Coming to Granite Creek

The 1885 Gold Rush in the Similkameen Valley centred on the tiny creek near present day Coalmont that was named Granite. A settlement grew at the site and miners arrived from as far away as California looking for new rivers and creeks to mine. Within two decades after being partially rebuilt following a fire in 1907, the community was largely abandoned and has been known as a ghost town since the 1930’s.

The Granite Creek Preservation Society was formed in 2013. The group’s mandate is hefty considering the historic significance of the once thriving gold town. The GCPS desires to protect the territorial integrity of the town site. Through their efforts they have worked to provide an understanding of the importance of the historical, archaeological and geological aspects of the ghost town and surrounding land. The group has taken on this task in order to encourage continued study of the significance of the historic gold mining town.

It took the GCPS 18 months of hard work to reach a major step in their preservation efforts. That was when they were granted a License of Occupation with the approval of the RDOS. The LoO is a requirement before any kind of physical preservation can take place at the town site. The GCPS has had a self-guided interpretive walking tour on their radar for years. The LoO allows them to proceed with a plan, with the assistance of the RDOS, to place a total of ten story boards/interpretive signs at Granite. Two will be in the area of the Granite Creek Cemetery with the remaining eight to appear within the footprint of the ghost town site.

Each sign will feature photos of landmarks or buildings as they once appeared and a documentation of what may have happened at the location during the height of Granite Creek’s popularity. Signs will recount significant activities, identify key community leaders and important buildings adding to the experience of walking the streets of what was once one of the largest settlements in British Columbia.
Grant applications are currently in process to assist with funding this exciting development of bringing life to Granite.

Cemetery Also Set To Come Back To Life

Prompted by contact by Consumer Protection BC, the GCPS is in the process of becoming the Operator of the Granite Creek Cemetery, which was closed in 2007. Although the group had been unofficially taking care of the cosmetic appearance of the Cemetery as well as researching and documenting burial records for the site, they recently opted to apply to become the official Cemetery Operator.

The process is complicated as it involves several steps, the first being obtaining a Lease for the property where the Granite Creek Cemetery sits. The goal of the Society is to reopen the Cemetery to allow for full body burials, cremated remain interments and the scattering of cremains for residents (and the families of residents) of Coalmont, Granite Creek and Blakeburn. The group is early in the stages to reopen the Cemetery and is hopeful they will achieve this goal within 2017.

Letters of Support for the GCPS becoming the official Operator of the Granite Creek Cemetery can be filed online at this link or comments can be mailed to the Senior Land Officer, Thompson-Okanagan, MFLNRO, at 441 Columbia Street in Kamloops, BC V2C 2T3.

You can also support the Granite Creek Preservation Society by becoming a Member. Membership is $10 per year and you can join online at www.granitecreekbc.ca. Or if you prefer, you can just make a donation to support the efforts of the GCPS in preserving the ghost town and Cemetery.

Please visit the Granite Creek Preservation Society web site.

Abie Moving On

Abie - Eberhardt Nipkov
One of the well known personalities on the Coalmont landscape is moving. Abie, who’s real name is Eberhardt Nipkov, has lived here since 2003. He first visited this area in the 70s, but it was in the 90’s that he started coming to stay at the Granite Creek Forestry campsite. Even back then he was known for his red diesel VW Rabbit, a model who’s engine and mechanical details he probably now knows better than most people ever will.

His attitude of tenaciously insisting on conquering mechanical items in his life is in his blood. His grandfather, Paul Nipkov, was the inventor of mechanical television which paved the way for modern television.

Abie is now settling into a new life in Princeton.    §

Cottonwood Treasure

One of the defining characteristics of Coalmont is the cottonwoods. These floodplain pioneers have laid the foundation of our local ecosystem but have mostly been pushed away by the invasion of people. This is the case everywhere in this corner of the continent where these interesting trees live.

Cottonwood riparian forests are a biological treasure. They house an amazing variety of plants and animals. Unfortunately, these ecosystems are at risk in British Columbia. The problem is that they are located on level and fertile land, which is exactly where people like to settle. Human activities have destroyed many old cottonwood forests and only fragments remain. It is estimated that we have lost 85 percent of valley bottom riparian habitat and much of what is left is in poor health.

In semi-arid areas like the South Okanagan and Lower Similkameen, riparian areas are important for maintaining plant and animal diversity for the whole region. Studies have shown that 80 percent of wildlife are either directly dependent on riparian ecosystems or use them more frequently than other habitats. Extensive, healthy riparian systems are critical for wildlife, and habitat restoration and protection are high priorities for wildlife management. Since wetland and riparian areas cover only 4 percent of the region yet are critical for so many species, the loss of small areas can have a dramatic effect on local wildlife populations.

Here in Coalmont we have cut down many of the large old trees because they are unsafe to have near our houses. This is unfortunate, but cannot be avoided. However, we are lucky that there are still some intact areas nearby which can serve their important environmental purpose if we take care of them.

Black Cottonwoods at foot of main Street

Kiaira’s Art Cart

Kiaria Anderson

Kiaira Anderson has opened a new business in Coalmont. You may have seen it as you drive by the Hotel. This is our traditional business corner and Kiaira brings her Art Cart here on many days. She sells baked goods and crafts so please stop and have a look. §
Kiaria Anderson and her Art Cart

Little Coalmont

The little village of Coalmont just got smaller – a whole lot smaller!!! Brian Swanton of Lion’s Head, Ontario has been reconstructing a G-scale garden railroad of the Kettle Valley Railway. Among other towns that he is recreating for his model, is the town of Coalmont. This isn’t a toy train set he’s building – this is art combined with history!

Mr. Swanton contacted the Sternes for photographs of old buildings in Coalmont so that his replicas can be as accurate as possible to the originals. His skills are truly amazing. The model is complete with mini people, mini cars, mini trees – well, you get the idea. His outdoor setup is approximately 60 feet by 40 feet with an indoor area of 25 feet by 4 feet. The outdoor track length is 580 feet and the indoor track area is 150 feet. Sit back and enjoy a ride on Mr. Swanton’s train and see Coalmont’s very own “mini me”. A Youtube video of his setup is on Youtube.

Below are some close-ups of Swanton’s Coalmont recreations. The September/October edition of “Garden Railway Magazine” will include an article about his railway.  ~ Diane Sterne

Old Coalmont Courier buildingCoalmont General Store


Coalmont HotelCoalmont Station

Our Historical Artifacts At Risk By Radical Move

The Princeton Museum and Archives houses some of our most dear historical artifacts from this area. Individuals and families have donated their heirlooms and fonds so that they will survive into the future and be available for generations to come. This, along with education and interpretation, is the job with which a museum society is tasked and which is the core of their constitution. Museums can often raise money and provide a focus for tourism, but that is only relevant in as much as it benefits their main goals, and not as ends in themselves.

The Princeton and District Museum and Archives Society has been in existence and run by volunteers since the 1950s. Currently there is a part time manager who makes the whole thing run smoothly. These last few weeks a plan by the Town of Princeton to take over the museum has come to light. Exactly what they believe to be “the museum” is not clear yet, but it looks like they are asking the Museum Society to dissolve and give the collections to them. This is putting the artifacts at risk because the town has no mandate such as a museum society does. Presumably some new legal document would be written up, but obviously that could not be sanctioned or approved by the people who had made donations in the past. These people made a deal with the museum society and not with the Town of Princeton.

At this point it is not known what the outcome will be. We do know that the building is owned by the town. We also know that the museum society is an official repository of First Nations artifacts in the valley. The First Nations view of a possible transfer is not known. In any case, this is going to be an interesting situation which will no doubt bring out some heated discussion between those who support the traditional role of one of our oldest cultural institutions in the area, and those who wish to see a more radical political and business approach as the way forward.

If you are interested in participating in these discussions and becoming a member of the Museum, please come to the Annual General Meeting Thursday 17 March, 7 pm at the Museum on Vermilion.

Six Hour Power Outage Today

At five minutes after one in the afternoon Coalmont went dark. It wasn’t until 7 p.m. that the lights came back on.

Interestingly, when someone called to report the outage, Fortis wasn’t aware that there was a problem. Apparently they don’t do any monitoring of the grid or meters. Not only that, but one Coalmontian reports that “About half an hour after the power went on, a lady from Fortis called us to see if the power was back on in Coalmont“. So apparently those expensive smart meters also don’t report when the power is on.

Horses Found On Auction

One of the Coalmont horses

A reader has spotted the horses which were here last summer and which subsequently disappeared, leaving us wondering about their fate. Coalmont resident Debbie Hong sent in this interesting information about the current whereabouts of these seemingly neglected animals. Debbie writes:

“This ad was posted on the Facebook Page BC Auction Horses. I can’t seem to post the pics but unfortunately they are the ones that are gone, but not forgotten, from Coalmont.”

“These horses are booked into Valley Auction’s THURSDAY Feb 25th SALE…. viewing will be permitted from Saturday the 20th on at the Valley Auction Sale Yard. Please remember these horses have been abandoned since June 2015 and MUST BE SOLD THROUGH PUBLIC AUCTION….. no one is to attempt purchasing them private prior to the sale…. go meet them…. they are super friendly and looking for attention. Please also note, there is no registration papers or confirmation of age available, these are just guesses listed below…..

1) Black stallion, thinking around 4 years old.
1) Buckskin, seems gelded, maybe coming 2 years old.
1) Mature bay brood mare, seems heavily in foal, quiet and gentle, stands about 14hh if that.
1) solid face bay mare, might be coming 2.
1) wide blazed bay mare might be coming 5.
1) bay mare with star stripe snip seems to be about 3 years old….

“I guess someone was tired of feeding someone elses horses since last summer and is now trying to recoup the cost of the feed and care, this being a brutal winter when it comes to the cost of hay. Hopefully they find homes and do not end up in the meat buyers pen, not that there is anything wrong with slaughtering horses but these ones are deserving of a long term home.”    ~ Debbie Hong

Previous stories here and here.

Where’s The Phone?

As we all know, our Telus payphone eventually did get installed, thanks to the hard work of Bob and Diane Sterne who were simply not going to give up.

Unfortunately, after all that we still got somebody with an emergency need wandering around town because they couldn’t find the payphone. No wonder. Telus had provided us with a sign, but it was only visible if you had a view up and down Front Street. So, the Sterns put further pressure on Telus and it payed off.

Today, there was a package from Telus with an additional sign and Bob put it up right away. Hopefully now someone traveling on Parrish (at Coalmont Road), or even along the KVR trail, will be able to see it.

Thanks to Bob and Diane Sterne, as well as David Fowler from Telus, for getting this happening for us.

Bob installing signTwo signs now

Coalmont Road Blocked

There was a rock slide on the Coalmont Road earlier this evening and passage is now closed in both directions. According to one motorist who wasn’t able to make it to Princeton the slide happened around a quarter after five.

The location of the slide is a few feet east of the yield sign by the defile. Although it appears that the road itself has not given way, the debris is apparently too big to clear this evening and in the interest of safety needs to be carefully looked at during daylight. Argo has been out there all evening.

The Drive BC Road Conditions site reports that the next update will be tomorrow, Friday, November 19, 2015 at 10:00 am.

At this point there is no knowing when the highway will be open again, but people planning to go to work in Princeton should at least make other plans for the morning. Although it would add almost an hour each way, an alternate route would be Highway 5A and Otter Valley Rd.

UPDATE: There is an Argo truck at the gate by Parrish and Coalmont Road to warn people not to go that way unless they’re local. They now say that it might be cleared today but more likely by tomorrow. Drive BC says they will have the next update tomorrow (Friday) at noon.

UPDATE 2: As of late Thursday afternoon the road is open again. However, they were still working on it so expect delays.

Just A Note

Sorry We're Closed sign

The Coalmont is closed. The food cart is gone. There’s no party tonight.

Chris and Sylvia had a good run and a lot of fun was had at the Coalmont Hotel since they re-opened the pub on October 28, 2013. (see story)

We have no more details about what brought this on, and all you’ll see is a note of thanks to the community posted in the window.

Note:

Montgomery Warren Sings About Hattie

Montgomery Warren

Diane Sterne writes: “A musician named Montgomery Warren stayed with us and has written a song about Hattie McBride. I have posted it on YouTube.

Written and performed by musician Montgomery Warren, this song depicts the life of Madam Hattie McBride who was murdered in Coalmont, B.C. in November, 1920. Her beautiful headstone can be seen at the Granite Creek Cemetery and fortunate visitors may smell her flowery perfume as she drifts through town. Her murder was never solved.   §

Horses Gone

Earlier this week the owners of the seven horses came back. They had been away on a working trip for about four weeks. While they were gone, the horses were penned up in a tiny space on crown land next to The Bailey Bridge. The situation had become a community concern and several people put in a lot of work to make sure the animals were fed and watered.

It’s one of those strange Coalmont Stories. Shortly after returning, the couple left town again but the circumstances are less clear this time. According to reports, the horses were taken away in a trailer. All that remains is a well trampled patch and the posts from the electric fence. We can take it for granted that there is also a lot of horse manure and an old travel trailer.

The crown land lot by river

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