After sitting vacant and unused for several years, Camp Green at Farnham glacier is no more.
Contractors wrapped up work at the glacier September 21, removing all traces of the campsite except for a small wooden safety hut used by RK Heli-ski. Rocks were due to be piled across a bridge on the access road leading up to Farnham, effectively closing the area to vehicles until the spring of 2012.
“The last thing that was left was pulling the water line out between the tap and the lake, and to remediate the shoreline where there was material pushed into the lake,” says Grant Costello, vice president of Glacier Resorts Ltd. (GRL), which holds a Licence of Occupation for the area.
“There’s no buildings at all. There’s no sign that they were there. They did an amazing job.”
Established as a partnership between WinSport Canada (formerly the Canadian Olympic Development Association, or CODA) the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and philanthropists Don and Shirley Green, Camp Green operated as a summer training facility for Olympic and Paralympic-bound snowboarders as well as alpine and freestyle skiers until the end of the 2008 season.
After that, the camp sat largely untouched for several years, with bags of sleeping huts, old kitchen equipment and other debris readily accessible to anyone visiting the site. During that period WinSport faced accusations from concerned locals that one of the fuel tanks left at the site had sprung a leak and contaminated soil in the area.
In May of this year, Costello says the group informed GRL it would be pulling out of Farnham completely and terminating its sub-licence to occupy Farnham.
Glacier began developing its own day use plan for the area, and was told by the province it also had to complete remediation work ordered by the government in previous years, or have WinSport do so, before it could begin its activities. Unfinished work a
the site also prompted an outcry from environmental group Wildsight earlier this summer. It argued remediation should be completed before the government permitted day use at Farnham.
“The urgent issue was to get the fuel tanks out because there was contaminated soil underneath them. So we did that prior to WinSport starting their removal,” says Costello.
WinSport’s more extensive remediation work had its own hiccup when it began late this summer.
According to Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations spokeswoman Cheekwan Ho, the group began removing buildings and equipment from the site before submitting a plan to decommission the camp to the government — which she says was the result of a “slight misunderstanding.”
“These actions did not have a significant impact on the site,” says Ho, adding WinSport had a plan in place by early September, which was government approved.
From there, Costello says the pull out went smoothly, and transformed the Farnham site.
“I was astounded at how they could reshape the landscape and put it back into what looks like the original form,” he says.
“If you look closely, you can see where the camp was, but they’ve done some replanting and will obviously do more replanting next year. Now it just looks like a cabin with a road to it.”
Invermere Wildsight president Ron Clarke says he’s glad to hear the work his organization called for has been completed, but says he remains a bit skeptical it’s all been done to Wildsight’s satisfaction. (Clarke hasn’t been to the glacier himself since work wrapped up, but has heard reports from others who have.)
“There’s still the issue of this so-called bulldozer trail that was being built over the west Farnham Glacier, I’m not sure if that’s gone,” he says.
” Whether it’s been finalized to our satisfaction I can’t say. But I am grateful for all the work that has taken place in the past few weeks.”
As for further activities at Farnham, Clarke says Wildsight wants “to make sure that those are being done by the holder of a proper Licence of Occupation, and within the boundaries of that licence.”
Though Glacier Resorts had originally hoped to begin running a day use program early this summer — a combination of athlete training and sightseeing — Costello says its own management plan, which would replace WinSport’s outdated one, has been “stuck” in a Strategic Engagement Review process with the Ktunaxa Nation.
“We didn’t anticipate that, because the strategic engagement which was signed with the province last October, it’s purpose was to speed up the consultation and review process, and it was also only to apply to new applications,” says Costello, adding he was both “surprised” and “disappointed” the review was taking place.
Though an exact timeline isn’t in place, Costello hopes the review will conclude in time for day use of the glacier to begin in May 2012.