A good busy week in Tumbler Ridge

Charles Helm


The week before Christmas was busy for the Geopark, Wolverine Nordic & Mountain Society (WNMS), and Museum Foundation. Very busy… and without exception filled with good stuff.

Day 1 – Tepee Falls: Birgit Sharman (WNMS President) and Larry White (VP) head off in the morning for the Tepee Falls trail, for a final meeting with Cole Porter of West Fraser Mills. West Fraser has been removing Pine Beetle trees from near the trail, in collaboration with WNMS. The trail has been closed for a few weeks while the selective logging was happening, with minimal impact to the trail, which Cole then re-established. He offers to review the trail when the snow is off the ground just to ensure that everything is fine and that no debris remains on it. A fine example of how volunteers can partner with industry to enhance a popular destination.

Birgit and Larry ride back to town, just in time for the meeting with Kevin Wagner of BC Parks. Kevin has driven out from Fort St John to discuss a partnership agreement with WNMS. The plan is for WNMS volunteers to assist with trail maintenance to geosites within Monkman and Gwillim Lake Provincial Parks. Other park improvements are discussed, such as a bench or picnic table where Hook Creek enters the Murray, and a minor park expansion that would allow a trail to the magnificent Slate Falls, which lies just outside Monkman Provincial Park. Discussion on Geopark signage at the viewpoint in Gwillim Lake Provincial Park concludes an excellent meeting.

Day 2: A lunchtime meeting with Ian McLeod and Colin Ritchie of Peace River Coal’s exploration team regarding work that will be done over the winter near the Nesbitt’s Knee Falls trail and geosite. Although mine operations will be temporarily shutting down, the exploration program continues. The meeting is to ensure that the trail and viewsites will not be impacted adversely, and Ian and Colin explain the steps they will follow to ensure this. They even offer to help with deadfall removal and the annual trail clean-up in the spring.

Day 3: A lunchtime meeting in Action Play Café at the request of Tim Burkhart of the Y2Y (Yellowstone to Yukon) initiative. This organization has a good track record of working with industry to enhance wildlife habitat and wildlife corridors in the Rockies. Are there areas of common ground, mutual projects to work on? How about starting off by seeking assistance to remove the batteries that scar too many alpine summits, or the Styrofoam that clogs an otherwise pristine alpine cave, legacies from the bad old days, when industry didn’t clean up after itself.

Next, a hasty meeting with Ken MacEachern and Crys White in the Community Centre. Crys looks after the museum exhibits that grace its walls. A few have gotten damaged and Ken will work on replacing them. Where broken glass needs to replaced, Gisele Stanek of Northland Glass will do this right away, with no charge for material or labour.

Conclusion to a busy day: a late afternoon meeting with Duncan McKellar of the Community Forest, Matt Peasgood, Birgit Sharman and Larry White. Items for discussion include the removal of Pine Beetle trees by the Community Forest beside the ski trails and along the TR Trail, which leads to a number of geosites. Then, review of the plans for logging on the west bank of the Murray River, across from the Murray Canyon Overlook hiking trail (a very important geosite). The task involves sitting down and working out how to log the required timber while minimizing the effect on viewscapes from the trail. An hour later, everyone leaves, respectfully satisfied that the necessary balance has been achieved.

Day 4: Finally, a free day on the weekend, best utilized by heading off on skis to the Dead River geosite to see if a wilderness cross country ski adventure is feasible to this intriguing geological destination that tells of the ice ages. Perhaps no-one has ever skied here before, but the trip gets the thumbs up. It will be added to the list of Geopark potential destinations in the winter brochure.

Day 5: The day of rest.

Day 6: Jim Kincaid (Museum Foundation President) and Curator Rich McCrea attend a meeting called by District of Tumbler Ridge with representatives of the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. Potential funding models are being considered for the Tumbler Ridge Museum. It’s a long process, but every positive meeting is a step in the right direction. Councillors Kirby and Scott are present, and afterwards go on a two-hour tour of the Palaeontology Research Centre.

Day 7: Tim Bennett of BC Rec Sites & Trails drives in from Dawson Creek for a lunchtime meeting. The signage project is discussed. New, improved highway signage will be installed for the majority of the hiking trails in the Geopark, as well as the Forest Recreation Sites. Tim throws in an enticing offer: a glossy brochure that would feature and celebrate these trails which lead to geosites. Tim also kindly delivers a large 6 X 4 foot sign that summarizes what a Geopark is, and lists the locations of the 111 Global Geoparks. It will need to wait until concrete can be poured before being installed.

Present at many of these meetings is Jordan Wall, Economic Development Officer for the District. Jordan represents the District, takes note of the good work being done, develops contacts, and provides much appreciated support wherever possible.

I don’t want to give the impression that this was a typical week. If it was, I would likely have to quit my day job. But it does illustrate how much work is being done behind the scenes, much of which translates into future prosperity for our community. And it means that the old myths and preconceptions (of how industry, recreation and preservation can’t co-exist) continue to be debunked by the example set in Tumbler Ridge. And it means that anyone can come for a visit and see for themselves how widely varied groups and individuals come together here to work towards the greater good.