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B.C.'s Othello Tunnels remain closed, damaged after storms

Normally, Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park opens in May.

A part of B.C. history that was heavily damaged during last November's storms won’t be opening any time soon.

The Othello Tunnels — a popular tourist destination — remains closed this spring. 

Back when the floods happened, Glacier Media spoke to BC Parks about the damage, which was described as “quite extensive” in the park. Quite a bit of access road to the tunnels had been lost, a spokesperson said at the time.

The storms brought enormous volumes of water flowing through Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park, sending trees and debris tumbling through the narrow canyon. 

BC Parks supervisor Rob Wilson said the tunnels also saw significant destruction. 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy tells Glacier Media Coquihalla Canyon Park will remain “temporarily” closed. 

"BC Parks staff have been working tirelessly, alongside our partners Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Ministry of Forests, and hired contractors, to rebuild and open as many parks and facilities as possible for the busy summer season,” says the spokesperson. 

Other parks that were heavily damaged — like Cultus Lake Park — have been able to open, but not Othello Tunnels.

"The trail through the Othello Tunnels and the associated access roads experienced extensive damage,” says the spokesperson. 

An initial geotechnical assessment of the park has been completed, but further work is required to ensure public safety in the area. Work that is being done by the ministry includes slope stabilization, installation of rockfall protection measures, facility inspections and repairing the damaged trail. 

"Staff are working to assess the damage and develop climate-resilient designs and plans to mitigate impacts from future extreme weather events,” the statement reads. 

The Ministry of Transportation is currently working on Tunnels Road and Othello Road, which is an important access routes for Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park. 

Gates are being installed at the parking lot to limit parking and staff will be reinstalling tunnel gates to block access to the tunnels. 

"An estimate for a reopening date can’t be provided until further assessments are undertaken, and the full extent of the repairs are understood,” says the spokesperson.

The ministry also couldn't say how much repairs will cost, again noting further assessments are needed.

Othello Tunnels were built in the early 1900s by the Canadian Pacific Railway and were hailed by some as an engineering feat. 

At the time, CPR wanted to link the Kootenay region with the B.C. coast by rail. Chief engineer Andrew McCulloch was tasked with building the railway over three major mountain ranges. 

The Othello Tunnels, near Hope, became part of the Kettle Valley Railway. 

The tourist attraction does close every winter but normally opens every year in May. 

BC Parks is asking the public to stay clear of damaged areas. Anyone who tries to enter a closed provincial park can be fined up to $1,000,000 under the Park Act. Charges may be brought forward.

Have a tip or want to get in contact with Alanna Kelly? Email akelly@glaciermedia.ca or contact her on WhatsApp or Signal.