Six years after a section of the Thatsa Forest Service Road (FSR) collapsed and was deactivated, a cooperative effort between Brad Thompson, owner of the Nadina Lake Lodge, Houston Forest Products, Huckleberry Mines Ltd., and Thatsa Timber has seen the road brought back into service.
The section of Thatsa FSR that collapsed was built in 1951 as an access road for Kemano energy project work in Thatsa Reach. Since then, many recreational users, trappers, forestry, and mining workers used the road even after it was no longer needed for industrial operations.
The road provided reduced driving times for some mine workers, and opened up a lot of beautiful back country in the Thatsa Reach area for recreational users. Thatsa FSR also provided secondary and emergency access for Thompson’s Nadina Lake Lodge.
When the road washed out in late spring 2007, due to the collapse of an old wooden culvert, Thompson faced a struggle to determine who was responsible for the road’s maintenance.
Because that section of the road was not licensed to any industrial operator, Thompson took the problem to the Ministry of Forest and Range (now subsumed under the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations MFLNRO).
At the time, ministry representatives told Thompson that they simply didn’t have the money to repair the road to modern standards. Instead, the ministry deactivated the road leaving it impassible by car or truck traffic.
The closure of the road had an impact on Thompson’s business and also meant that the lodge lost an emergency exit.
“Since that time, we were evacuated two times because of forest fires,” Thompson said. “The secondary road would have been the emergency exit, so that prompted us to fight [for the road] as well.”
Getting the road repaired was a drawn out process.
“We were unsuccessful in convincing the ministry that it needed to be fixed,” Thompson recalled.
Recently, Onno VandenHoek, an area supervisor for Houston Forest Products, took the initiative and set repairs in motion.
“I know them [the Thompsons] and I’ve stopped in at the lodge a few times,” VandenHoek said. “I knew this business with the road was at a stalemate and I just decided to see what we could do.”
VandenHoek has plenty of road-building experience and is familiar with the permitting and paperwork involved in getting road work approved. He obtained the MFLNRO permit, and Thompson obtained the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) permit (a nearby fish stream mean DFO permitting was required).
Houston Forest Products and Huckleberry Mines Ltd. agreed to split the cost of the road repairs. The road was popular with mine employees who would pop over to the Nadina Lake lodge to wet their fishing lines, VandenHoek explained.
“I talked to the guys at Huckleberry and asked if they wanted to split the bill; they were fine with that.”
Thatsa Timber Ltd. of Burns Lake did the actual roadwork, which took a couple of days. They provided their work at a reduced rate to help out with reopening the section.
“Everybody realized what was going on,” VandenHoek said. “It’s just a good-neighbour deed.”
“It’s now repaired and has been reactivated,” Thompson said. “It is two-wheel drive accessible. It’s a vast improvement and it’s open to the public. There’s still some work to do to make it really nice, but we’re going to do that this summer ourselves by hand. Now it’s worth doing because the road is drivable.”
Thatsa FSR remains classified as a wilderness road by the MFLNRO. As such, the province’s responsibility for its upkeep is limited.