It’s part of the Trans Canada Trail, it’s a popular day trip for locals, it’s a popular backroads route for tourists. It’s the Gray Creek Pass, which takes one up the St. Mary Valley from Kimberley, to a 6800 foot summit and the Oliver Lake rec site, then down to Crawford Bay and Kootenay Lake.
According to Russell Musio of the Back Road Map books, the Gray Creek Pass is rated as the “the most important Back Road in BC, if not in Canada.”
And it’s closed.
Tom Lymbery of the Kootenay Lake Chamber of Commerce owns the Gray Creek Store and he is trying to organize an effort to re-open the pass. And he especially wants people on the east side of the pass, in Kimberley and Cranbrook and area, to join the effort and recognize the importance of the road to the local economy.
The problem is numerous slides over the road during this bad runoff year.
“The biggest problem of all is the Redding Creek slide between the two crossings of the creek,” Lymbery said. “It’s a major slide, with lots of timber, and the it is estimated it will cost $45,000 just to get the road through there.”
Lymbery says the road was constructed in 1989-90 and was constructed well.
“This is the first time there has been a major problem,” he said. “The Gray Creek Pass is closed completely because of slides and subsidences – the first time in the 22 years of this, the only direct route between East and West Kootenay. This road was constructed in 1989-90 jointly funded between Forest Service and Highways. Forest Service have had to carry all the load for maintenance, replacing all the wooden bridges with excellent cement ones. They also spent $80,000 in upgrading the Western side in 2011.”
Now, not even bicycles can get through the pass in its current state.
Total costs to repair the route will be in the neighbourhood of $120,000, Lymbery said. The pass runs through two different Forest Districts with the boundary being the summit.
Ken Haynes from the Kootenay Lake Forest District says that some requests for funding have been made and some work is being done on the Kimberley side of the pass. However, the road will remain closed until further notice.
Lymbery says it’s very discouraging to see such an important road closed, as it is an economic benefit, not just to himself as a business owner on the Kootenay Lake side, but to the local economy on both sides.
He says about 200 vehicles per day go back and forth. In addition to that, the pass carries the Trans Canada Trail over to the Kimberley Nature Park and then on to the Rails to Trails.
“There’s no connection any more,” he said.
Lymbery says that the Kootenay Lake Chamber is trying to at least find a way to get the Trans Canada Trail reconnected and he is reaching out to the Kimberley and Cranbrook chambers for assistance, though he hasn’t heard back from either yet.
“We want the road back, but we’ll start with the Trans Canada Trail,” he said.
Lymbery and Kootenay Lake Chamber of Commerce are encouraging all interested parties to contact their MLA’s, MP’s, mayors, city administrators, tourism officials, BC Forest Service official, Regional District representatives and others to help move the re-opening of this important transportation corridor forward.
For more information on the pass and the efforts to re-open it, call Lymbery at 250-227-9448.