Offensive Driving

With the Victoria Day weekend coming up, we’re seeing a steady stream of vehicles along the Coalmont road. What most people don’t notice is that none of them are honking their horn. Why is that?

Some readers may suggest that of course they’re not honking, that would be pretty offensive if they did. Well we’ve go news for you! According to the BC Motor Vehicle Act Regulations, it’s an offense not to. In fact, for a driver charged with this contravention there is currently a $109 fine and 2 points on your license.

The Motor Vehicle Act states specifically:

Travelling through canyons

196 When travelling through defiles or canyons or on mountain highways, the driver of a motor vehicle must hold the motor vehicle under control and as near the right hand edge of the highway as reasonably possible, and on approaching a curve where the view is obstructed within a distance of 60 m along the highway, must give audible warning with the horn of the motor vehicle.

One can argue about the steepness of the mountain sides and whether the Coalmont road goes through a “canyon” or if it’s just a valley, but there is no doubt that it’s a mountain highway. Neither is there any doubt that the slide area is a “defile” since a single lane is the very definition thereof.

So, how many places do you count along the road where your vision is obstructed 60 meters (200 feet) along? This is a bit of a conundrum. If you don’t honk, you’re committing an offense. If you do honk, you’re being offensive.

Motor Vehicle Act – Current to April 29, 2015
Fines and points for B.C. traffic offences

Save Your Appetite

Rumour has it that the Coalmont Hotel Food Wagon is coming back very soon.

corner of food cart

It’s out front of the Hotel again, reminding us of how nice it was to have a place to get food without having to drive miles or (shudder) cook. It could be open as early as this weekend. Apparently there are some surprises in store, but you’ll just have to wait. Come back here to find out. We’ll have the story for you.   §

Plan B

Everybody has a phone plan. Some are better than others, but you get what you can afford and now that Telus has turned us down for a replacement payphone we’re looking at plan B. The price is right, but unfortunately includes no long distance.
tin can and string phone

Our plight for an emergency public phone was reported by multiple media outlets today. Global News did a story which ran several times. At 5 p.m. we heard Telus representative Shawn Hall say “The phone’s been damaged multiple times over the last couple of years. Costs us about $5,000 to put a new phone in each time.” That does sound like a lot of money to pay for multiple incidents. However, nobody here remembers more than one time in recent history where there was damage – and that was a broken handset. Is it possible that Hall is including the many times that the phone was non functional because their service to the whole area was borked?

From the Coalmont perspective that phone has been very important for a long time. Some of the serious emergency issues have already been mentioned, but one person from Granite Creek also pointed out that when their kids needed a ride home because the school bus failed to show up in the snow, used the payphone to call home so they could get picked up.

Telus also doesn’t seem to care about providing service to the many people who don’t have a home phone because they are only here on weekends or part time. This payphone is a regular place for some to stop and make a call when coming from Tulameen or the coal mine. There are also several people in town who can’t afford a phone and they can be seen at the booth several times a week. Again, Hall has a different perspective: “It’s a very, very low use phone. Used really only a few times a month. We just couldn’t justify putting a phone back in after this last time it was damaged.

One can understand that a full replacement is indeed expensive and that this phone didn’t make a lot of money. In fact no one ever remembers seeing someone come to collect money from the box – and that includes yours truly whose front window looks directly down on said phone booth. But there is more to corroborate Telus’ tale of woe. Several regular users confide that you didn’t actually need money to use that phone. It’s impossible to confirm that now, but could it be that Telus was actually looking for an excuse to stop that service? They do seem to go to some length to deny anything that could prove value to them or a need for us. In fact it’s starting to look like their plan A is our plan B.    ~ Ole Juul

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

Unusual Visitor to Coalmont

California Quail April 20, 2015

I thought you might be interested in this. On Monday, April 20, we spotted an unusual visitor to Coalmont. This lovely California Quail spent well over an hour perched on some brush in our little community.

It is extremely unusual to see them around here. It certainly is the first one we have seen here during our 6 years in Coalmont. Many long-timers we have talked to say they have never seen or heard of one in the Tulameen/Coalmont/Princeton area. We don’t know if he has decided to stay in the area, or if he has any other friends or family with him, but we would be thrilled if he decided to make Coalmont his home.

Hopefully others will get to see him, and find that he has set up housekeeping here. He would be a welcome neighbour, in our opinion.

~ Faye Davidson

Good Things In Coalmont

Opinion: Some recent events in Coalmont have ended up in court and elicited considerable interest further afield. The Similkameen Spotlight painted a colourful picture with the headline Coalmont ‘spiraling out of control’.

That quote is from a Provincial Judge, and to many here it comes across as a slur. It might be relevant had it been limited to this court case – a story about escalating ructions centering around a specific situation. True, a number of nearby residents have been unpleasantly effected, but this is far from being a community wide issue. That the court documents purportedly listed at least one person central to the case as being Coalmontian, when in fact they were visiting from the lower mainland, does not help to clarify the picture.

Coalmont is certainly not out of control. This is a diverse community, and there are indeed some real characters, but there is also a measure of empathy and social understanding. Yes, there are strong feelings and opinions, but people are really much more tolerant than they sometimes sound.

In fact the issues which lead to a Judge’s apparent generalization only serve to underline just how much outsiders don’t know us. Despite our differences, there is still concern and real help being offered to those who have gotten themselves into a difficult place. The reality is that our humanity will prevail.

Although I do appreciate the drama and intrigue, I’m not sure that many readers from out of town, specifically Princeton, have the perspective to understand that they are hearing an enhanced colouration of our famous local mythology. The view from here is really quite different. And that is a good thing.

~ Ole Juul

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.   §

Power Outage Notice

Fortis Outage Notice Sign

There is an announced electrical outage for next Tuesday March 24, 10 a.m to 2 p.m. This will effect all customers along Coalmont Rd including Coalmont and Tulameen. Also includes customers on Blackmine [sic] Rd. Approximately 524 customers are involved.

The reason given is equipment repairs and upgrades, but another announcement posted on the web three days later indicates that they decided to do “Emergency repairs” along “Areas of Coalmont Rd, Tulameen Rd and Blackmine [sic] Rd as well. That action is purported to effect about 594​ customers.

Make sure you have plenty of water set aside, or gas in your generator so you can make a cup of coffee or flush the toilet. And, of course, don’t forget to check your email before 10 a.m.   §

We Still Need Firewood

Nick Saban March 2015

After being down on the coast for the winter, Nick Saban came back late Monday evening. It was dark, and it’s still cold around here. Putting in a fire was on the top of his mind. There’s always dry firewood neatly piled in front of the cabins for when there are guests. To his surprise, and consternation, it was gone.

The pile by the main house was gone too. Someone had saved themselves some work and picked up almost two cords of wood where it was easy to get. How nice for them. We don’t see this kind of thing much locally and people tend to help one another, so one can imagine it was someone from further away. Nick has been here for over 40 years now, so he knows how to cope. Still, as he puts it himself: “I don’t have the stamina to load wood like I used to.” At 72 years old, that is no surprise. Although Nick is an unusually fit person, we all run out of steam eventually.

Life in Coalmont can indeed be a bit more work than city folk would be used to. Getting in fire wood is work enough, and so is splitting logs and feeding the stove – but in the winter there’s snow that needs shoveling if you want to get in, or out, of the door. In fact the snowplow will typically plug up people’s driveways to the point where older people will just have to stay home because it is hard or impossible to dig themselves out from that. Nick cites that as one of the reasons he has taken to going to the coast. However, with spring nearly upon us, he’s looking forward to riding his bike around and enjoying the outdoors life that this area has to offer. Before it starts to get cold again in the fall, he’ll also be bringing home some more firewood.   §

Power Went Off – Again

One could be tempted to say that the power went off “as usual”, but that would perhaps be a bit harsh. On the other hand we’ve had a lot of power outages lately. Today it was only off for 1 hour and 45 minutes, which coincidentally was the same length of time it was off the other day. The times that it goes off for only a few seconds and then comes back on with an electronics damaging surge should also be mentioned.

And we all remember a couple of months ago when it went off for most of the day and we all froze, went without water, and for the most part were unable to communicate with the rest of the world. That was actually an excusable situation because of extreme weather. What excuses Fortis can cook up for all the other situations is beyond me. I suppose this is just one of the side effects of them selling electricity to us at such a low price that they don’t have enough money to do basic maintenance. Perhaps we should take up a collection to help them out.   ~ Ole Juul

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

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