Myra Canyon trestle, part of a network of trestles creating a trail system that has become an iconic tourist attraction for hikers and cyclists alike. (Tourism Kelowna photo)

Society that saved Myra Canyon trestles could be disbanded

Lack of new members impacts Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society

The volunteer-driven society that played a significant role in the development of the Myra Canyon Trestles as a global tourist attraction may be forced to dissolve.

The Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society is losing many of its long-time board members, and there is a lack of interest in a new generation of volunteers to replace them.

Denis Davis, who has been active with the society for some 20 years, says age is catching up with the core members of the society.

“For many of the directors it has been up to 25 years of involvement, and we’re basically getting tired,” said Davis.

“So the society is going to examine the dissolution of the society over the next year. Basically there are four main steps we have to go through to achieve that and we will be looking at those steps over the next few months.”

The society made a public call for new volunteer involvement prior to the society’s annual general meeting held April 27, but that only led to the recruitment of one new board member.

“It’s disappointing in a way, but then again if you look at my personal situation, I reached the age two years ago where BC Parks would no longer cover me for (trestle work) because of my age.

“As a result, it was up to younger directors to step in and pick up some of the load. But we now have five remaining board directors and they will be the ones responsible for following through and determining how we got about dissolving the society.”

Retired journalist Judie Steeves said when the society was formed as a registered charitable foundation, it was a galvanizing force in the community behind preserving the 12-kilometre Myra Canyon trestles, tunnels and trail system.

The 18 trestles and two tunnels were built between 1912 and 1914 but were becoming a forgotten historical landmark before the society stepped up to the plate.

“Without the investment and energy of the community volunteers in the society, there would have been no impetus for the government to step in and replace the damaged trestles after the 2003 fire,” Steeves noted.

“The Myra Canyon Trestles exist today because of the society.”

The society played a role in protecting Myra Canyon by lobbying for it to become part of the Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park and also to be declared a Canadian National Historic Site.

Society volunteers have added boardwalks and side rails to the trestles cleared fallen trees, boulders and brush from the trail, added storm shelters and benches, and provided information kiosks for visitors, an accumulation of more than 40,000 skilled man-hours of volunteer work.

After the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, the society again stepped up, along with BC Parks, to manage the rebuilding of the 12 burnt wooden trestles and two damaged steel trestles, with funding from the provincial and federal governments.

The society was named BC Parks Volunteer Group of the Year in 2016.

Today, the trestles attract more than 100,000 visitors and have become known as an international tourist attraction.

READ MORE: Myra trestle society receives BC Parks award

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