After being closed to the public for three summers, one of West Kootenay’s chief geological attractions may reopen to tours next year.
Hugh Ackroyd, the area parks supervisor, says a proposal has been submitted to operate the caves. As part of the permitting process, ads are appearing in the Star stating that BC Parks intends to issue a 10-year permit for a commercial guiding service, “with an emphasis on public safety, education, and conservation of the natural features.”
Ackroyd wouldn’t name the prospective operator but said it’s a Nelson man with extensive caving experience, who moved here a few years ago.
“I deal with him through another part of my work,” Ackroyd said. “He said would you mind if I got the key to Cody Caves? Afterward, he said what do you think about me doing the operation? I said great.”
The Cody Caves have been shut since the fall of 2009 after the former guide said he couldn’t afford to run them due to fees imposed on him through his government operating permit.
Kevin Stanway was unhappy the money wasn’t directly reinvested in the park and wasn’t willing to increase his tour price of $18 per person.
Despite advertising, BC Parks couldn’t find another operator, so the caves north of Ainsworth have been off limits ever since.
The terms of the new permit would be the same as with the previous operator, but Ackroyd expects the business model to be a bit different.
“He realizes having someone up there all the time is a bit hit and miss. I think he’s looking at more of a web-based booking system.”
Ackroyd says barring any strong objections, tours could resume starting early next July. He added the forestry road to the caves is in “reasonable” shape. A steep section just before the parking lot has sloughed, but he described it as “pretty minor.”
The limestone caves, named for their reputed discoverer Henry Cody, have been protected as a provincial park since 1966.