Category Archives: News

Parkland Donation

The last meeting of the Regional District had an important agenda item.

COMMUNITY SERVICES – Rural Projects
1. Area H Parkland Donation: To accept the offer of parkland donation.
It was MOVED and SECONDED THAT the Board of Directors accept the offer of parkland dedication in Coalmont, pending the results of the proposed environmental audit.

CARRIED

Map of lots along KVR

Our New Telus Phone Is Here

new payphone on Front Street, 2015
Our new payphone came today. There was no ceremony, no speeches, no band. A pickup drove up and within minutes the job was done. It looks good though. Kudos to Telus for coming through.

It’s a very functional unit from which one can make free 911 calls and all the other calling features which one would expect. No coins, which is probably a good thing because it’s just one less thing to break and for Telus to deal with. There’s a soft glow light inside the top of the hood which is both welcoming and functional. One can also imagine that with the unit being on the wall of the Telus building, the technicians who frequent this location will keep an eye on it, and perhaps even change the light when it goes out.

The new location has advantages and there is no question that the phone looks good there. It’s also nice and private for those who enjoy that. Perhaps the biggest advantage is being off the street so the snow plow won’t block it in the winter time. That driveway is typically kept clear when it snows.

The only drawback of being on the Telus Building, is that it can’t be seen from the Coalmont Road (Parrish Avenue) or the KVR trail. A blue sign was placed on the telephone pole on the corner, right where the old phone booth was located, and that makes it clear that there is a telephone around. But it can’t be seen from there since it is in the woods now. Another sign could probably fix that problem.

It’s been 10 weeks since the original payphone got destroyed on March 29th (story here), but it’s all good now. Telus came up with a phone, and it looks great.

new payphone on Front Street Telus building

new payphone in the woods at dusk

Trail Widening Moving Along

Argo has been ditching the Coalmont Road and when they do that there’s free fill to be had. Today they continued using it to widen the stretch of the KVR between Parrish and the Betts shortcut. As seen in the pictures below, the first half of the block has been done previously, and now they’re continuing on the second half. Area ‘H’ representative Bob Coyne was not aware of any plan involving this work, and the Regional District Parks and Facilities Coordinator, Justin Shuttleworth, was not available for comment. If anybody has any knowledge of what the plan is, and who is behind it, please say so in the comments below.
KVR Parrish to Betts 2015 East

KVR Parrish to Betts 2015 West

UPDATE: Several people with an interest in the KVR have called to say that this is the area where there was a sidetrack on the old railway and because of the width, this would be a good place for a staging area for trail users, and perhaps also a helicopter landing.

Our Payphone Is Coming Back

Telus has just informed us that they intend to replace the payphone. David Fowler, who manages the payphone business for Telus, contacted the Sterns with the good news. He will be working with their technicians to ensure that this new payphone is installed and operational as soon as possible.

Diane Sterne writes:

Mr. Fowler operates out of the Calgary office. He will be working with their technicians to ensure that this new payphone is installed and operational as soon as possible. We are very grateful to Telus for listening to us and coming to a compromise that should work for everyone. We also wish to thank Alex Atamanenko (Federal MP), Jackie Tegart (BC MLA), Bob Coyne (RDOS Area H Rep.), all of their staff, members of the public and the press who instilled in Telus the importance of this much-needed phone. They were all instrumental in helping us arrive at this workable solution.

Mr. Fowler supplied the following details:

  1. The payphone inside the Coalmont Hotel will be removed and replaced by one accessible to the public 24/7 in an outdoor location.
  2. They will be installing that new payphone on the Telus building on the north side of Front Street, just east of the Coalmont Road.
  3. They will be installing a payphone sign(s) at the original booth location directing people to the nearby, new location.
  4. The new payphone will be of a robust design with free calling to 911, credit card calling, collect calls through an operator, but no coin slots.

Smart Meters Here Next Month

FortisBC will soon be installing advanced meters in Coalmont. We have confirmed that there is indeed a work order for our town, and they will be doing the work between June 22 and June 26. Meter exchanges will take place Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Just like when your meter is normally read, you do not need to be at home.

Despite motions opposing the installation of smart meters in many municipalities, the provincial government has insisted that installations would proceed. FortisBC started installing the new meters in late 2014, are doing the Similkameen area now, and will finish with the Kootenays in late 2015.

Although the basic technology is considered by some experts to have been outdated long before it was even proposed, Fortis still believes that their implementation carries many advantages. It is not clear just how many of those are of benefit to the end user but they place more billing options, fewer estimates, and online tools, at the top of their list. For a more complete sales pitch on Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) visit Fortisbc.com/ami. Current privacy concerns appear minimal, but future advanced options offer significant intrusion. At this time three years of data will be available for immediate retrieval and four additional years will be archived.

FortisBC was unable to tell us what the actual implementation of the Coalmont rollout will look like. The basic technology utilizes the spectrum between 902-928 MHz but how the connection will be made here could be different. With no cell coverage, it will likely be through satellite backhaul. The latter is expensive but FortisBC claims that it is still worth it to them in many cases. We will have answers to these kinds of questions after the first meter goes in on June 22nd.   §

A Tale of Three Trails

Friday evening’s informational meeting in Tulameen regarding trails was very well attended. In fact one person in the audience pointed out that he hadn’t seen such a turnout for a while and that this was surely testimony to the fact that here is an issue which many people care about. However, the issue which many in the audience had expected to confront, was apparently not the thrust of what the presenters had intended.

Planned speakers were the Regional District Parks and Facilities Coordinator Justin Shuttleworth, president of the China Ride Trails and historical trail researcher Kelly Cook, and Bob Coyne who is our Regional Representative, but for this occasion was here on behalf of China Ridge Trails Society. On hand also was Ken Reeve from the Vermilion Trails Society.

The meeting was sponsored by the Tulameen Community Club who had sent out notice with the following call.

ATTENTION! Mountain bikers, hikers, walkers, quadders, dirt bikers, snowmobilers. ALL users of the Trans Canada Trail and all other trails in our area…. now is the time to find out what/where/when/how you can and will be able to use the trails now and in the future.

Perhaps that is what set the audience’s expectation. It certainly became clear soon after the meeting started that a fair section of the audience, and certainly the notable number of Coalmontians present, were there to air their displeasure with how they felt about their access to the trails in general – mostly regarding the new Provincial off-road motorized vehicle regulations as this has fired up many people.

Justin Shuttleworth is the Parks and Facilities Coordinator for the Regional District. He claims to have no agenda regarding the KVR trail but says he has put a lot of time into this. He is concerned with trail maintenance and explains that it is currently being done through Vermilion Trails Society. His stance on usage is that it is, and should be, “respect based”. It is interesting to note that there are 5 active Trans Canada Trail groups in the RDOS. Currently the district jurisdiction stops 11 km short of Brookmere, but they’re trying to get that section included. The most interesting part of his presentation was regarding the recent slide by the second trestle on the KVR. Shuttleworth says that the geotech report just came in today and they will be looking at that to determine the way forward. He feels confident that money will be found to clear up the slide but it could take a little while. The best case scenario would see the job finished by the end of summer.

Bob Coyne’s presentation about the China Creek trails was short but informative. He points out that the reason that they request non-motorized only use is that it causes a lot of damage to the snow grooming equipment and actually costs them time and money, neither of which they have a lot of. Here, Kelly Cook interjects that it would really be better to avoid the negative expression “non-motorized” and instead talk about “self propelled”. They have single track bike trails and 40 km of trail which they maintain in the winter time. Coyne also says that the China Creek trails are all designed for family use. There was some argumentative resistance from the floor regarding the China Creek policies, but in the end it looked like people understood that there is access for everybody to that area and that it is imperative that certain trails be designated for specific uses or it won’t work.

Kelly Cook presented on her research and work with the Hudson Bay Heritage Trail. This is the fur trail, and not to be confused with the Dewdney Trail. In fact it has roots going back much further in history. But perhaps the most significant local role, indeed in Canadian history, is that this trail as used by the Hudson’s Bay formed the basis of Canada establishing sovereignty in this area. The trailhead is at the Tulameen museum and it goes all the way to the Coquihalla. It is unfortunate that there is no parking in Tulameen for those who want to start a hike there, but perhaps that can be remedied in the future. More work will be done to manage trail usage and we can expect to hear a lot about this exciting project in the future.

There was not anything to fault or argue with in Kelly Cook’s presentation, but throughout the rest of the meeting one could sense that much of the audience was there to get answers about motorized trail usage – specifically on the KVR.

Ken Reeve gave an inspired talk about community based choices. He advocates that the communities through which the KVR trail runs, should have the major say in what it will look like in their section. No one disagreed with that. However, as it turns out, Reeve was well prepared to answer the questions that many had really come with. He has talked with the RCMP regarding their plans. They have funding to enforce the new law and they intend to pursue a zero tolerance policy. Unregistered off-road vehicles will be confiscated – even if they are being transported, as there is a hope that this will cut down on thefts. Also, drivers must be 16 or over and hold a valid drivers license. This elicited some reaction from the audience, with one person yelling “you gotta be an idiot to not let your kid ride a dirt bike!” It seems that the new regulations will take some time for people to accept. Many want to vent about the changes, but at this point there is not really much to discuss. The information is available many places and will be given to people when they go to get their ORV license and insurance. (see earlier article) The issues about what to do with trail maintenance and individual community choices is still alive and well. Perhaps most important to many people who attended this meeting is that, at least in our area, the KVR will remain open to quads.   §

Coalmont Food Cart

Bratwurst

Coalmont Burger

Chicken on bun

The Coalmont Food Cart is now open and here to stay. Opening times are noon ’til after dinner, Tuesday through Sunday. Prompt service, but if you’re really in a hurry you can call ahead: 250-295-6066.

MENU
Coalmont Burger
    Home made beef paddy with lettuce, Monterey Jack cheese, and of course, our smoked onions.

Big Game Bratwurst
    Bison, Venison, and Elk. With smoked onions, Dijon mustard, on a Parisienne bun.

Chicken Sub
    Grilled chicken breast with Tzatziki, cucumber and lettuce.

Good Ol’ Smokie
    The traditional standby with smoked onion and cheese.

Weekend Specials
Watch for smoked meats, pulled pork, smoked brisket, baby back ribs. Menu changes every week.

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Chris Berringer

Chris Berringer came here with his partner Sylvia to operate the historic Coalmont Hotel about a year and a half ago (see Coalmont Hotel Open). It has been a great success, not the least because Chris knows how to give people what they want. Now he’s going one step further and offering the food service that customers, indeed the Coalmont area, has been asking for. Open 6 days a week. With the Coalmont Food Cart conveniently right outside the door to the Saloon, you can take your food inside and enjoy it with a beer and company, or you can just pick it up like it was a drive-through. Perhaps the best part is that Chris has been cooking since before many people were born and that means that you know it’s going to be good.   §

Abandoned by Telus

Telus has informed us that they do not intend to replace the pay telephone here in Coalmont.

The location of the, now gone, payphone was just at the entrance to town and the first thing you see when either coming here by road or traveling through on the trail. It was well known to recreational off-road vehicle enthusiasts who relied on it being there should they need to call 911 while in the area.

Vic Verdi, Executive Customer Relations Adviser at Telus wrote in an e-mail this morning. “I have spoken with a few team members about getting the payphone replaced. Given the costs associated to replace this, we are not prepared to replace the payphone at this time.

This is not good news for this community, nor for the Trans Canada Trail users. This public telephone was the only way of getting emergency help in the area. There is no cell service.

Telus has a different view. “There is a payphone available at the Coalmont Hotel” Verdi said. Indeed, old timers here know about that phone. They may also know where to contact the proprietors to come and let them in when the saloon is not open. Visitors to the area, such as Trans Canada Trail users, would never find that phone, and these are the people most at risk.

With no cell service many feel that something needs to be done to provide emergency contact for those who don’t have a house with a traditional landline. On any given weekend, that could be half the population of the area because we have a very high level of tourism in these parts.

Some local protest is expected. Already our BC MLA Jackie Tegart, Member of Parliament Alex Atamanenko and the CRTC have been contacted. Bob Sterne says there will be something about this on the CBC Daybreak Show Thursday Morning.   §

House Fire in Tulameen

A house fire in Tulameen shortly after 10:00 am Tuesday, April 21 has destroyed two homes in Tulameen. Tulameen fire April 21, 2015

Tulameen fire April 21, 2015

Fire fighters from both Tulameen and Princeton attended, as well as an ambulance to stand by in case of injury. Both homes were completely destroyed. Neighbouring homes were counting their blessings that the fire did not spread further.

It is certainly heartwarming to see the response from the communities to help those affected.  ~ Faye Davidson

Off-road Vehicle Registration June 1

Registration of your quad will become mandatory on June 1, 2015. That’s just over 6 weeks from now. The combined cost of the number plate and registration fee is $48.

The new regulations will allow off-road vehicle operators greater access to highways, including the ability to:

    Cross a highway without having to obtain an operation permit if the crossing is controlled by a stop sign or traffic light.
    Cross a highway where local police authorize through an operation permit.
    Load or unload in a parking lot without an operation permit.
    Obtain an operation permit with an extended term of up to two years.

There are a number of requirements, and you can read more about those on the ICBC web site. However, the one which may come as a surprise and inconvenience is the requirement of a valid driver’s licence to operate an ORV on a forest service road as well as public roads and highways.   §

April Snow

Just as we thought we had seen the last April fool’s jinx, it started snowing late in the evening. So far no one has claimed responsibility, but here is a picture from the morning of April 2nd to show that it actually did happen. Fortunately, by early afternoon it was all gone again.

Snow on branches, April 2, 2015

KVR Blocked by Slide

The KVR Trans Canada Trail has been blocked by a slide. A large part of the mountain has given way and the debris is more than trail crews can deal with, even with machinery. The situation will likely require geotechnical expertise and special equipment. There is currently no word on whether this will become available, or when the trail will again be open between Coalmont and Princeton. For the time being this section is impassable by quads, and it is unsafe to cross on foot.

The first picture shows the blockage as seen from the trestle facing Princeton. The second picture is taken from across the Tulameen River. The end of the trestle is now covered or gone down with the slide into the river below.

Slide blocking KVR at Second Trestle

Slide blocking KVR - view from across the river

Photo: John Moss

Man in phone booth hit by car

A car driven by Rolly Giroux has demolished the Coalmont phone booth, destroyed one household’s water well, and sent one person to hospital.

Around noon today Warren Spence had stopped to use the phone booth at the corner of Front and Parrish. Mr. Giroux, driving an uninsured vehicle, came by and drove directly toward the booth with Mr. Spence in it. According to Spence he saw Giroux coming straight toward him but was not able to move away fast enough and was still left bleeding. Reportedly the injuries are not life threatening but still fairly serious. Spence has long been a sworn enemy of Giroux who is well known for his threats. It is unclear whether this was an accident or not.

Giroux, who lives at the other end of the block, went home. Spence apparently had a companion in his truck who was able to drive to the hospital. The police then arrived at the scene, took some pictures, and then went to visit Giroux whom it is assumed was with them when they left there a short time later.

Regardless of intentions, the worldly consequences are not good. Mr Spence says he will be laid up for at least 6 weeks. Furthermore, the loss of Coalmont’s phone booth is no small matter. It was the only emergency phone serving this area and section of the Trans Canada Trail. There is no cell phone coverage. The well behind it is now partly caved in and is exposed to further contamination by surface water and rodent access. This was a source of drinking water for two properties. In addition, the goats and other animals which Giroux was caring for at his residence will need attention while their master is away. It is not known when, or if, he will return.

Fortis Leaves Us Powerless All Day

The power went down this morning (Saturday) at 11:40 and when it came back on at 1:38 p.m. it was a great relief – which lasted for approximately two minutes until it was down again. Crews were already on their way home, but were called back before they got far from the scene. This time it took them an hour and 35 minutes to restore power.

People who restarted their computers, or ventured into the shower, or whatever they had put off that required electricity, were in for a rude surprise because this repair only lasted 55 minutes. It then took a long time before power came back again. In all, the power was off for nine and a half hours today.

The Fortis web site still lists a maximum 4 hour blackout for Tuesday.   §

Still Hope For Coal Mine

Things might be warming up a little in the saga of the Blakeburn Coal Mine.

It’s been a long couple of winters for the mine. Operating mostly under the name Coalmont Energy Corporation (CEC) the mine stopped production in October of 2013 because of lack of profitability combined with a surfeit of debt. Nevertheless Coalmont managed to get a stay of proceedings which ended on February 18 of last month. That is when the inevitable declaration of bankruptcy occurred. The first meeting of creditors is tomorrow.

There are 145 known unsecured creditors who are owed a total of $37.5 million. However, at this point Coalmont has no asserts, those having been sold to a company by the name of Sandhill Materials last month. Former employees will not be eligible for termination pay under the Wage Earners Protection Act because of the length of time that has passed.

Depending on the economic climate and the price of coal, it looks like the mine may well come back into operation at some point. For those who have not followed the whole story, there were a number of companies involved with Coalmont Energy. The main one was Arthon, of which CEC was a subsidiary. Although not drawn into the bankruptcy proceedings, Sandhill Materials is part of the Arthon group and now the owners of the CEC assets. This means that we could be seeing the same people return to the mine, and some locals could get their jobs back.   §

Coalmont Energy plant in winter

Signs To Honour Our History

New Smart Road Sign

There is now a smart new Smart Road sign. Thanks go to Chris Goodfellow, Brad Hope, and the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen for making this happen.

The earlier sign, paid for by the community, was stolen. The previous District Director, Brad Hope, subsequently persuaded the Regional District to provided a new one. The mounting of the sign was, however, left to the community. Chris Goodfellow volunteered his services and as you can see from the picture, did a splendid job. Read the original Courier story here.

Another sign had gone missing earlier last year. That was the memorial sign placed near the site of the old post office in the, now gone, town of Blakeburn. People were working and living there a few years before the post office opened in 1922, but everything closed in 1940 and it became a ghost town.

The Coalmont community had decided that it was important to put a memorial sign on the site to commemorate the place where people, some of whom are still around, were born, lived and went to school. Quite a few also died in the 1930 explosion.

Again, it was Chris Goodfellow who volunteered to do the work. The last one was also a community effort and the actual metal sign had been provided by James and Sharon McCulloch, who had the foresight to get two, just in case. Read the original Courier story here.

New Blakeburn Sign

River Update

Message from the Tulameen & District Volunteer Fire Department:

The river has cut a channel through the ice jam. There is high debris flow and high water levels, but the pressure behind the jam has been released. We will continue to monitor. ~ Chief Woodford

Tulameen River high with debris
Bob Sterne sent in this photo and writes:

Here is a photo we just took (9:30 am) of the river at the Coalmont bridge…. Fairly high and lots of debris, but certainly not a problem….