There was standing room only at a public meeting last night for a proposed commercial development on Mt. Begbie.
The project, called the Mount Begbie Alpine Chalet group, includes plans for a hut and chalet in the alpine, near the glacier.
The 16 person “alpine club” style hut would have a group kitchen and dorm accommodations and the 16 person “European style” chalet would be equipped with en-suite bathrooms, flush toilets and showers, gourmet meals, a hot tub, massage therapist and a wine list.
The development would be accessible via helicopter or by foot.
|Iconic Mount Begbie from Revelstoke Mountain Resort on opening day, Dec. 1, 2018. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
Ian Tomm, tourism consultant and former Canadian Avalanche Centre director, is one of the proponents behind the project. He said the development would probably be visible with binoculars from Revelstoke.
“I’ve looked up there and thought a hut would be great,” said Tomm, who lives in Revelstoke.
Nick Holmes-Smith, who lives in Chase and owns Mustang Lodge near Revelstoke and Tom Ebbern, who has a home in Revelstoke, are the other proponents of the plan.
“Huts create a connection that is not possible anywhere else,” continued Tomm. The three proponents are seeking a crown land tenure for a small four acre site that would be non-exclusive.
So far, nothing has been submitted to the province for approval.
Tomm noted they wanted to present the idea to Revelstokians before submission and get feedback – if indeed they do apply to the Ministry of Lands and Forests.
Tomm is also trying to develop an indoor climbing gym in Revelstoke, in partnership with the squash club for a multiplex facility.
Last year, Tomm said he was working on a project that proposed a gondola on Mt. Begbie. While he is no longer involved in that project, he said it’s unlikely the gondola will come to fruition.
Regardless, he continued that the Revelstoke area is becoming increasingly attractive to developers and visitors.
There are other entities interested in Mt. Begbie, noted Tomm, such as logging and mining.
|Ian Tomm is one of the proponents for the Mount Begbie chalet and hut. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
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 almost double in the next five years. It’s used extensively in making batteries.
First Energy Metals Limited, a company based in Vancouver, has mineral rights on Mt. Begbie, for at least another year. 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.
So far, no drilling has been conducted at either site.
Tomm said his proposed development would be “a meaningful, thoughtful and cultural investment in Revelstoke”.
“It’s not about recreation [or] tourism, but culture,” he said.
Currently, Recreation Sites and Trails BC looks after the trail and campground on Mt. Begbie. However, Tomm noted that the campground is overwhelmed with visitation, with many people camping above the campground in the alpine, where there isn’t an outhouse or proper bear storage facilities.
The proponents said they could improve facilities in area for other backcountry users, alongside the hut and chalet development, if approved.
“Every time I go up there I clean up garbage and human waste,” said Tomm.
At the meeting, most people were quiet for the first hour. However, that soon changed.
“Most of us here want nothing. No development,” one attendee said.
“This is a sacred site. It should never be developed,” said another.
The room erupted in applause.
A third proposed a crowd funding project to purchase the land and turn it into a park.
Revelstoke resident, Ben Wilkey said there are other ways to look after Mt. Begbie that do not include commercialization.
He said potentially a non-profit, such as the local Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) section, could fund and look after the trail and campground.
Although Wilkey is on the board for the ACC, he said he attended as a citizen of Revelstoke.
Wilkey continued he would not support any hut in the Begbie area, even if it was run by the ACC.
“That is not a place for a hut. There are far better places elsewhere.”
In May, the North Columbia Environmental Society sent a letter to David Brooks -Hill, CSRD Area B director, for adding Mt. Begbie as Area B’s first regional park.
“It is habitat for wolverines, mountain caribou, grizzly bears, black bears, beavers, cougars, moose, to name just a few of the signature mammals of our region,” the letter said. “More study is needed of this area in order to know what flora and fauna need to be protected from future development.”
Kate Borucz, executive director of NCES, said they met with Brooks-Hill and while the CSRD “was very supportive of the idea, they [Area B] didn’t have the funds to buy out existing tenures”.
“Funding is the biggest hurdle,” said Borucz.
In a phone interview, Brooks-Hill said he would like to see Mt. Begbie protected with no development and no logging. However, the CSRD would have to buy out existing forest tenures, which he guessed could cost millions. Even then, the province would still have to approve it.
“The province is the key partner.”
He said he would like to partner with the City of Revelstoke to try and find a solution.
|Revelstoke resident Kate Borucz handed out a petition after the meeting to protect Mount Begbie from development. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
Borucz handed out a petition after the presentation which will be circulated a Saturday’s farmers market, as well as be available online. The petition is to protect the Mt. Begbie area from development.
“Forever,” said Borucz.
She said 49 people signed the petition at the meeting.
“If we don’t act fast, it will show Mt. Begbie is for sale.”
Unless it’s protected, people will keep trying to develop the mountain she said.
Tomm said he expected an outraged public response. However, he noted there is support also for the project, with some locals reaching out wanting to invest.
Next steps for the proposal include processing feedback from this meeting, further consultation, and negotiations with other commercial tourism stakeholders.
“After tonight the four of us will sit and put our heads together,” said Tomm.
At least 100 people attended the meeting at the Community Centre, though the room only housed 50.