Restoring the Old Glory forest fire lookout

Friends of the Rossland Range held a meeting to discuss the restoration of the Old Glory forest fire lookout Thursday night.

Discussion has begun on how to turn the Old Glory forest fire lookout into a heritage site open to the public.

Friends of the Rossland Range (FORR) held a meeting to discuss the restoration of the forest fire lookout Thursday night at St. Andrew’s United Church Hall.

Those who attended had the chance to give their input on what the restoration should include.

Some of the work that needs to be done to restore the lookout is structural, like replacing the roof, replacing the shutters and fixing the rocks under the foundation.

“Some of the concrete is poured concrete, but poured concrete is quite an enterprise way up there in the mountains. You have to have enough water to do it and concrete is heavy so they set some of the building on this poured foundation,” explained Les Carter, FORR director. “[One] corner is sitting on a natural rock …, but underneath [the middle] was all rock masonry mortared together and a lot of the old concrete has, through freeze/thaw cycles over the years, broken apart and the rocks have fallen out.”

The rock work needs to be put back in place to make the building a little more secure.

Other improvements are needed to mark the lookout as a historical landmark and were open for discussion.

One of the first decisions made was that the lookout should be open so the public can go inside. Then the question was what should be done to make it an interesting site to visit.

One suggestion was to make the fire lookout resemble, as much as possible, what it had looked like when it was in service. Enough so that someone visiting could imagine what it was like to be up there back then, on the lookout for flames. This includes being able to look out the windows, and having the old stove, fridge and Douglas fir plywood counter top stay in place.

In line with that suggestion, Carter suggested putting in a firefinder table with a map printed on steel.

A major part of making the lookout into a historic site is installing interpretive signs describing the history of the lookout. It was suggested that the interpretive experience should also include the weather station, since anyone who’d climbed all the way up Old Glory would want to have a look at both.

This sparked an interesting debate about what constitutes a historical artifact and what is simply junk.

A team is currently working to remove some of the scrap metal, crumbled bricks and other garbage from the weather station, but some at the meeting were concerned that historical artifacts might be mistaken for junk.

A group will likely be meeting for a followup discussion on which items are considred to have historical value.

It was agreed however that people should be encouraged to take pack out their garbage and part of the restoration will include posting signs to that effect.

Carter also suggested that there should be signs warning hikers about lightning strikes.

“The lookout is lightning grounded and the lightning grounding has always worked, explained Carter. “Being electrocuted is part of the risk of lightning, [but] they’re recently realizing that the rest of the risk is the same as what they’re finding with hockey players and that’s concussion injury.”

The shock wave caused by lightning can result in concussive or auditory injury, which is part of the reason FORR doesn’t want to encourage anyone to think of the fire lookout as an overnight destination. Though people staying inside may not be electrocuted, the building won’t shield them from the blast.

Someone else suggested that since there were so many trail signs people wanted to include, it might be best to have a kiosk at the trailhead, rather than cluttering the trail with too many signs.

Another important consideration for the restoration was the installation of an outhouse. Research still needs to be done to find out what type would require the least maintenance and be the least smelly.

The restoration of the Old Glory fire lookout is being funded in part through a Canada 150 grant.

The grant can’t be used until April and then FORR will have two calendar years to spend the money. They also still need to match the Canada 150 funding.

“That was $85,000 if we can match that $85,000 with funds from other places, and we have matching funds for all but $15,000 of that now,” said Carter.