Popular Othello Tunnels not expected to reopen this year
A major tourist attraction and historical landmark near Hope, B.C., remains closed more than 16 months after being damaged by floods.
Othello Tunnels, located in Coquihalla Canyon Park, would usually reopen for the season in May.
But according to a statement from the Ministry of Environment, it is “not anticipated that it will be opened in 2023.”
“It’s the number one thing, number one question asked in Hope, ‘When are the tunnels going to open?’” said Hope Mayor Victor Smith.
Before the floods of November 2021, about 50,000 people would visit the park each year between May and November.
“When one of your larger attractions are shut down or closed, it’s a big hit for your community, no question,” said Brian McKinney of the Hope Cascades and Canyons Visitor Centre.
“A lot of movie business relies on the park being open, so that loss to our community has been immeasurable,” he said. “It’s been a big loss overall.”
CTV News has been asking the Ministry of Environment for months about the extent of damage in the park, as well as the cost of repairs. The ministry has not provided answers.
In an email, the ministry said geotechnical engineers have assessed the storm impacts.
“The report was received recently and will be utilized to determine the scope of work required for repairs within the affected areas of the Park. Next steps have yet to be determined,” the statement reads.
“Government needs to understand how important it is to the locals. And the locals will fight long and they will fight hard (for the park),” said Jackie Tegart, MLA for Fraser Nicola.
“It is one of those areas that is critically important to the economic development of the region,” she said.
McKinney said parks staff have told him there is “some structural damage, some geotechnical damage, a lot of loose rock that needs to be repaired.”
To those who have visited the park, its popularity is not surprising.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” Mayor Smith said. “It’s our Grand Canyon of Hope.”
The tunnels are steeped in history and considered a remarkable engineering feat.
“Construction was begun in 1914 and completed in 1916. The first train went through in the fall of 1916,” explained Mike Stuart, a local historian.
“The chief engineer, at an age of nearly 60, is said to have hung down in baskets on ropes in order to survey some of the areas to see if a line can be made through,” Stuart said.
Hope’s mayor said he wants to know the province’s plan for reopening the park.
“There’s funding for new parks… but there’s nothing for maintenance of old parks and that is a problem,” Smith said.
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