Last month the City of Revelstoke got a letter from the province rejecting their protection plan request.
“I’m disappointed. It’s our iconic mountain. I’m not anxious to see it developed,” said Gary Sulz, mayor.
In March, the city sent a letter to the province and regional district asking for Mt. Begbie to be protected from development.
The city’s protection request came on the heels of a proposed commercial development on the mountain.
Last fall, there was an open house for a project that includes a hut and chalet in the alpine, near the glacier.
|Hiking in the alpine below Mt. Begbie. (Photo by Ben Wilkey)|
It appeared the vast majority of attendees at the open house were strongly against the proposed development.
At the time, Ian Tomm was one of the proponents behind the project. Shortly after the open house, he became president of Eagle Pass Heliskiing and said he left the project.
Nick Holmes-Smith, who lives in Chase and owns Mustang Lodge near Revelstoke is still one of the main proponents.
Yet, he said very little has advanced on the project since the open house last September.
Holmes-Smith said COVID-19 has certainly impacted plans and the project’s future is unknown.
So far, nothing has been submitted to the province for approval.
However, there are other commercial entities interested in Mt. Begbie.
According to the Wilderness Committee, an organization aiming to protect biological diversity in Canada, there are several planned logging cuts by BC Timber Sales below the mountain.
The area already has been logged multiple times.
According to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Mt. Begbie has deposits of lithium and demand for that rare metal is expected to double, soon. It’s used extensively in making batteries.
First Energy Metals Limited, a company based in Vancouver, has mineral rights on Mt. Begbie.
The Kootenay Lithium Project consists of 20 contiguous mineral claims that cover 1,700 hectares near Mt. Begbie and also consists of 30 contiguous mineral claims that cover 2,300 hectares on Boulder Mountain.
However, Gurminder Sangha, CEO, said the company has no short-term plans for Mt. Begbie.
|The mountain is named after Judge Matthew Begbie. (Revelstoke Museum and Archives 1924)|
Why was protection rejected?
In B.C.’s letter to the city rejecting a protection plan for Mt. Begbie, the province said it lacks resources to create a new land use plan for the area.
The province already has its hands full with other land use plans, including one in Golden, which is deemed a higher priority.
However, the province encourages anyone interested in protecting Mt. Begbie to continue trying.
“The province isn’t saying no, just not right now,” said Sulz.
“We are not going to walk away. There needs to be a new land management plan for Revelstoke so developers can’t just build unchecked.”
The North Columbia Environment Society said the environment around Revelstoke suffers due to the outdated plan and increasing use of recreation.
The society has a petition on its website that was launched last year to protect the mountain from development.
Another petition has also been launched on change.org, which almost 3,000 people have already signed as of July 21.
Revelstoke’s MLA Doug Clovechok said the province’s decision to not protect the mountain makes little sense.
However, he said if protecting Mt. Begbie is essential to Revelstoke, it’s important to let the government know.
“You got to fight for it,” Clovechok said.
Clovechok said he will write a letter to the province, further explaining the mountain’s importance to his contingents.
|Historic photo of Revelstoke and Mt. Begbie. (Revelstoke Museum and Archives #4568)|
Mt. Begbie in Revelstoke
Mt. Begbie’s image and name is common throughout the Revelstoke area.
From Begbie Creek, Begbie Falls, Begbie Lake, Mt. Begbie Road, Begbie Road, Begbie View Elementary School, and the Begbie Falls campground to the numerous businesses with the moniker.
Reference to the mountain is littered throughout the city’s history.
A poem written in 1915 by “Starlight” in the local paper describes Mt. Begbie as:
“Lofty the mountains and grand, –
But Begbie, all thine is the charm,
Snow-crowned, as a monarch doth stand
To guard our fair city from harm.”
Fixing recreational access to the mountain
The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) got almost $17,000 in funding this year to upgrade the existing Mt. Begbie trail. The club said it should soon have a partnership with the province, allowing it to take over stewardship of the trail and campground.
Ben Wilkey, spokesperson for the ACC, said the first step will be to do a trail assessment to determine what’s needed and whether it should be rerouted.
While Recreation Sites and Trails BC currently looks after the trail, Wilkey said the campground is a “free for all”.
The club hopes to install an outhouse, add more sites and clean up the surrounding area.
“We’re not going to create a Disneyland up there,” said Wilkey.
While a partnership with the province does not block future development, Wilkey said the ACC now has a seat at the table to discuss any proposals.
Eventually, the ACC would like to steward other trails in the area, such as the Jordan River, Fred Laing Ridge and McCrae.
A Facebook page Protect Begbie has been launched this month dedicated to maintaining the present state of the mountain.
The group has over 1,200 members.