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Popular B.C. tourist attraction set to reopen soon

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Years after it was shut down because of extensive flood damage, a major tourist attraction near Hope, B.C., is preparing to welcome visitors again.

Construction crews have been working to get the first two of the five Othello Tunnels reopened to the public by mid-July.

“They’re doing scaling and rock bolt … installation of mesh,” explained Aaron Nicoli, a senior geotechnical engineer with Tetra Tech.

“The mesh provides ongoing protection from future rock fall,” he said.

Environment Minister George Heyman visited the site Thursday for the first time.

“We decided to do this project in two phases so that we could open it this year rather than wait for the completion of all of the phases in 2025,” said Heyman.

But it’s been a long road.

Back in November 2021, the park was heavily damaged when atmospheric rivers pounded the region. Bridge foundations were impacted, along with the stability of canyon slopes above and inside the historic tunnels, increasing the risk of falling rocks.

And all that water did significant damage to Coquihalla Canyon Park and the tunnels that had been drawing about 50,000 visitors a year.

Hope Mayor Victor Smith told CTV News in March the park was incredibly important to the community.

“On a small scale to Hope, it’s like the Grand Canyon to us,” he said then.

“People have been very disappointed in the region that we’ve had to close the park,” Heyman agreed.

“It’s an important part of the tourism economy. It’s an important feature that people come from other countries and all over British Columbia to see,” he said.

The tunnels, built in 1914 as part of a railroad, were considered an engineering feet of their time.

Repairing them now, which comes with a steep price tag of $4.5 million, has been challenging.

“It’s a long, narrow site because it follows the whole railway grade. Developing a working plan that keeps everyone safe is challenging when you have such constraints,” Nicoli explained.

“It’s a complicated project and not only did we want to repair it, make it safe, we wanted to make it safe in the future,” the minister said.

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