The death of a camper crushed by a tree at Murtle Lake is too easily dismissed as an
unavoidable hazard, considering that the risk was known to park officials even before a close call two weeks earlier.
No one who ventures into the wilderness should expect to do so without risk of the unexpected occurring, yet Murtle Lake is not true wilderness; it’s a tightly managed semi-wilderness visited by thousands of people annually.
That no one seems to take responsibility for public safety is disturbing to say the least and indicative of how government cuts have eroded the B.C. Parks system over the past decade.
Like Wells Gray Provincial Park as a whole, Murtle is a hidden gem. The world’s largest paddle-only lake is located just a few hours north of Kamloops. Ringed by sandy beaches and nestled between mountain peaks, it has long been a
mecca for visitors from around the world.
Yet camping is permitted only at designated sites. After mountain pine beetle swept through the park, dead lodgepole pine was removed from the sites by park staff over the past few years for safety and esthetic reasons.
Alice Gilbert, visiting the park from the West Kootenay, was killed last week when a tree fell on her tent in the middle of the night.
In early August, several Kamloops families felt extremely fortunate to have narrowly avoided the same fate. The group contacted The Daily News by email after the incident, hoping to warn the public of the hazard and prevent a tragedy. They were told by park officials that the hazard is recognized, a result of removal of foreshore pine killed by mountain pine beetle.
Removal of wind-prone foreshore trees can make healthy trees nearby more vulnerable.
Murtle Lake is known for high winds that seem to rise from nowhere.
There is no longer a park warden in Wells Gray, which is the size of a small European country. This year, for the first time in too many to recall, there is no naturalist, either.
Reporters made repeated calls to the park contractor over a period of a week — trying to confirm that the hazard is recognized and what might be done about it — yet none was returned. Then tragedy struck.
The province needs to sit up and take notice rather than simply offering sympathy to the family.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.