The 1912 Mount Revelstoke Auto Road’s first milestone at the Revelstoke Golf Club is the point of departure that sent the community of Revelstoke on a two-year journey that led to the construction of the road in Mount Revelstoke National Park.
100 years later, Revelstoke is embarking on another two-year journey that will retrace the steps and tell the stories of the journey.
Almost 50 people gathered at the Revelstoke Golf Club on Saturday, Aug. 25, to kick off the centennial celebrations of the park, which will culminate in 2014.
Revelstoke Museum & Archives curator Cathy English explained some of the chapters in the drive to create the park.
A walking trail up the mountain was created in 1908. The Revelstoke Mountaineering Club was formed in 1909 and it built the first chalet at Balsam Lake that year. During construction, pioneer mountaineer Eva Hobbs discovered Eva Lake while on a group hike in the area — it was named after her.
In 1912 the Revelstoke Progress Club formed to promote the area, foster pride and promote the vast natural resources in the region.
English noted their pioneering efforts to promote wilderness-based tourism. One of their key goals was, “to familiarize citizens and [the] general public with [the] unsurpassed scenic attractions easily available by means of good roads and trails.”
In 1912, club members met with provincial officials, who helped secure funding for the road up the mountain. The Progress Club also dreamed of a CP Rail chalet at the summit, and lobbied for a golf course. They envisioned a golf course that would be “the most beautifully situated in the world.”
“Parks Canada never agreed to that one,” English joked.
Eight kilometres of road was completed in the first year, but progress soon slowed with the start of the First World War.
Mayor David Raven said the community leaders at time were visionary, adding it was an “exceptional year.”
“In 1912 Revelstoke was seen to be one of the communities that was going to be leaders in the province,” Raven said. “It was going to be a commercial hub for the central Interior.”
There was a wave of provincial and federal funding for things like the Revelstoke Post Office, The Revelstoke Courthouse and Queen Victoria Hospital. He compared those public works with the ones undertaken during his term. “So far we’ve got a sewage pumping plant and a bit of pipe in the ground,” he joked.
It was also the start of efforts to diversify beyond the resource industry, including a tourism push embodied by the Auto Road.
Mayor Raven displayed a hand-carved, wooden walking cane that sits in a case in his office. It was presented to Mayor Hector McKinnon in 1916 by Austrian prisoners of war who were interned in a road work camp on the mountain. “Interesting that prisoners of war would make such a contribution to the mayor of the community,” Raven said. “Which tells me that we were an open, caring and inclusive community, even in 1912. I think that our legacy follows forward.”
Parks Canada superintendent Karen Tierney applauded the vision of the Revelstoke pioneers who lobbied to create the park. “It was quite a vision,” she said, noting there were very few national parks anywhere in world at that time. “They saw the opportunity to protect this special place and share it with the world.
“This was at a time when most people did not own a car,” she added.
Parks Canada artist Rob Buchanan unveiled the logo for the 2014 centennial. It features remarkable wildflowers from the summit area, including Indian Paintbrush and Lupin. A green triangle features one of the many peaks of Mount Revelstoke.
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