A vital tourist link between the East and West Kootenay, the Gray Creek Pass, has re-opened. It may be just in time for snows to close it, but nonetheless, Tom Lymbery of the Gray Creek Store on the West Kootenay side of the pass is pleased to see that the Forest Service found the funds to make the necessary repairs after slides on the East Kootenay side kept the pass closed all summer.
The Forest Service spent $80,000 to clean up six slough areas on the Pass route.
The 85-kilometre Gray Creek Pass was closed earlier this summer because of slides on the Kimberley side. Lymbery began lobbying almost immediately about the importance of the pass to tourism in the area, and he is very pleased to see it open no matter how late in the season it is.
“I think the publicity in local newspapers helped us. So did Cranbrook Council supporting us. Things like that matter, otherwise there is no pressure to do anything.”
Lymbery isn’t about abandon the cause now that the necessary repairs have been made however. He wants to see the road designated as a tourist resource road, in the hopes of finding additional funds for ongoing maintenance.
The Ministry of Forests acknowledges the need for ongoing maintenance but has not committed funds to it.
“It is a very solid road,” he said. “Aside from this spring there have been no slides in 22 years. But the problem is there is no ongoing maintenance program.
“The Forest Service has done a good job with their budget, but having the road designated a tourist resource road would provide additional funds.”
He would also like to continue to work on getting the Gray Creek Pass officially designated as a Trans Canada Trail route, feeling that will help secure its status as well. He is seeking someone to help from the Kimberley side on this.
“It is a very popular route for tourists,” he said. “And it is a relatively good quality road.”
Right now, the Pass is still open and Lymberry says he has gone over it as late as October 31 with little to no snow. However, after November 1, travel on the pass is only advised with chains and four wheel drive. Eventually the snow will prevent passage until spring.