Lawsuits leave lodge in Glacier National Park derelict
Decline of landmark in historic Rogers Pass 'breaks your heart,' visitor says
When Alicia Fox drove through B.C.'s historic Rogers Pass this summer, she was amazed by the stunning mountains that frame the Trans-Canada Highway.
But it was the ugly sight of a massive old lodge in the heart of Glacier National Park that caused the tourist from Manitoba to stop.
"It was really sad seeing such an iconic place look so derelict in the middle of this beautiful pass," said Fox as she peeked into the half-boarded-up windows of the Glacier Park Lodge's main dining room.
"It breaks your heart, especially when you know so many tourists come through here, and this is what they're seeing, and it doesn't really make the national parks look very good," she said.
The distinctive teal-roofed lodge, with its two restaurants and a service station, has served as a landmark for more than 50 years after the Trans-Canada was completed through Rogers Pass in southeastern British Columbia in 1962.
The property was a regular stop for tourists who could peer up at the Illecillewaet Glacier while having a meal or sleep at the moderately priced lodge.
It was also the only place within 150 kilometres where highway travellers could stop for food or fuel or wait out a road closure in one of Canada's most active avalanche zones.
But four years ago, Parks Canada decided not to renew its lease on the land, and the owners shut it down.
Officials have not explained why the lease wasn't renewed.
In online forums, some visitors reported a decline in the quality of service and maintenance at the lodge over the years.
The buildings were put into receivership and boarded up in 2012. But today, many windows appear to be propped open or are broken, roofs are visibly damaged, and the lodge's walls are attracting vandals.
The back door to the service station is wide open and a plywood board appears to have been removed from a huge window outside the lodge's dining room, allowing anyone to have a look inside.
Lawsuits leave lodge in limbo
A series of lawsuits involving Parks Canada and the lodge's previous and most recent owners means the property in the heart of Canada's second-oldest national park is stuck in limbo.
Court documents show that businesses controlled by the previous owners of the hotel and gas station, Yoho and Abbot Ridge Investments, are suing Malcolm and Linda Campbell, the couple who bought the business from them in 2008.
In their statement of claim, the companies alleged the Campbells owed $2.6 million plus interest on a deal the plaintiffs largely financed.
They're also suing Parks Canada, claiming that they sought to negotiate an agreement "whereby Glacier Park Lodge might be put into operation, but Parks Canada has refused to consider any such arrangement."
The lawyer for the plaintiffs told CBC News his clients have no comment on the case.
Parks Canada claims contamination
Parks Canada filed a counterclaim in 2014, suing both the Yoho and Abbot companies and the Campbells for allegedly "contaminating" national park land and water.
The court documents claim that "on numerous occasions," petroleum product storage systems at the lodge or gas station failed.
The documents in the complicated case also suggest there have been no developments since December 2015.
In a statement emailed to CBC News, Parks Canada said it's still unable to comment on the case or the state of the property.
"The Glacier Park Lodge is still before the Supreme Court of British Columbia. It would be inappropriate for Parks Canada to comment while the matter is still before the courts," said the statement.
"Future options for the property will be determined after the legal process is completed."
Backcountry skiers say the Glacier Park Lodge was never intended to be an upscale resort, but it was valued as an affordable place to stay within the national park.
It's a captive audience for that hotel.— Sharon Bader, b ackcountry enthusiast
Sharon Bader stayed at the lodge during many winters as she and friends accessed what she said is some of the best and most accessible powder in Canada, through a trail right behind the building.
"You could go out and have a run, go back and get a poutine, go out and do another run," laughed Bader.
"Whenever we stayed in the lodge, there were tons of people. There was huge demand."
Bader and others in B.C.'s outdoors community say Rogers Pass has exploded in popularity for backcountry skiing, with remote parking lots increasingly filled with cars during the winter.
Parks Canada says there were 16,679 skier visits to Glacier National Park last winter — a growth of about 47 per cent since 2010.
"It's a captive audience for that hotel," said Bader.
"How could there not be enough people up there to support something like that?"
Hope for the historic pass
For some in the area, the hope is that a decision will come soon, especially considering the importance of Rogers Pass to Canadian history and mountaineering.
In 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed through the pass, finally connecting Canada from coast to coast.
The project included some of the tallest bridges in the world at the time, and 12 metres of snow every winter made construction a challenging and dangerous feat of engineering.
Revelstoke, B.C., resident Douglas Sproul has spent more than 20 years exploring the Selkirk Mountains and wrote an extensive guide to backcountry skiing in the Rogers Pass area.
No one's looking for the Ritz-Carlton up at Rogers Pass.— Douglas Sproul, Rogers Pass guidebook author
Sproul recently canvassed his friends who use the pass to see what they hope could eventually end up at the site of the Glacier Park Lodge.
Many are skeptical it will ever be restored, both because of its current condition and because they think it might be too large and old to be heated without breaking the bank.
"The overall consensus is a smaller place, modern … no one's looking for the Ritz-Carlton up at Rogers Pass."
Sproul wants to see at least something restored or built in the pass to help travellers on what he calls a "horrible drive" in winter.
And if nothing else, he hopes the boarded-up lodge will be put out of its misery.
"Tear the place down, man, just make it disappear," said Sproul.
"If the government has to take the hit on that, whoever has to do it, just do it, just get rid of it."