A Tk’emlups te Secwepemc archeologist said it is “really difficult to say” whether First Nations artifacts could be discovered during the West Victoria Street reconstruction project, which will see work begin next month in one of the oldest parts of Kamloops.
The city is reconstructing the road, replacing utilities, improving pedestrian access and beautifying the downtown arterial route, a $13-million project that could take up to two years.
“It’s been built up for 100 years or so,” TTS archeologist Ryan Dickie said of West Victoria Street.
“Until we get into the ground, until we see the dirt or the soil, it’s really difficult to say.
“But what I can say is Tk’emlups people have been here forever, for 10,000 years. There’s not likely a square inch of this area that hasn’t seen a footprint, so we’ll see.”
In the 1900s, West Victoria Street was called Main Street.
The city said it was the first street in Kamloops, home to Chinatown, hotels, a saloon and the post office.
TTS ties prior to that remain unclear.
Dickie said historical records were lost during early colonial times.
“This is an exciting opportunity to go and explore a previously unexplored area in a very unique spot,” he said.
“You can’t see it, but we’re just across from the confluence [of the North and South Thompson rivers], which is a very, very important location in the landscape.”
Engineering consultant Golder Associates has been hired to lead archeological field work, while TTS and the city will help manage the project.
City capital projects manager Darren Crundwell said when it comes to archeological discoveries during construction projects, the city follows provincial legislation — the Heritage Conservation Resource Act.
He also emphasized the importance of working with TTS.
Archeological finds, however, can result in construction delays and the question of what lies beneath is one of the West Victoria Street project’s many challenges.
Archeological discovery delayed the opening of the Heffley Creek Bridge, which was completed last August.
Crundwell, however, said the city has plans in place and pointed to the Valleyview Drive BC Hydro project last year, which included discovery of ancestral remains.
“They had everything in place. They’ve got proper plans working with the First Nations and it’s just a matter of working in that area, dealing with it properly and then continuing on,” he said.
“Are we expecting to find a whole bunch of stuff here? We don’t know. You never know and that’s the challenge with a project like this. It’s all developed.
“We can’t go in there and do a bunch of testing, but we want to be prepared. We’ve got a backup plan for everything, not only archeology, but the transition of all of the services, as well.”
ABOUT THOSE ANCESTRAL REMAINS
Dickie said remains discovered during the BC Hydro project in Valleyview last year were sent for radio-carbon dating.
He participated in the recovery and said the person could not be identified.
Though they cannot be certain, Dickie said it was an isolated discovery and the remains were likely transplanted to Valleyview as part of road infill.
“Some gravel deposit somewhere was excavated, turned into road fill and placed there,” he said.
The bone will be reburied on the Tk’emlups reserve at a later date and a reinterment ceremony will be held.
WEST VICTORIA PROJECT DETAILS
Construction is expected to begin on April 15 and last from 18 months to two years.
Work will be done in four stages, with crews digging down about 12 feet one phase at a time.
The biggest challenge is making space in the narrow corridor for the new pipes that will be laid next to the old ones from 1907, which will remain active until the new utilities are online.
Once the pipes are replaced, the roadwork and landscaping will follow, then it’s on to the next section, though there will be some overlap between stages.
Stage one — beginning next month — will involve tearing up West Victoria Street from BCLC to The Mustard Seed New Life Community. Temporary two-way traffic will be in place on one-way Seymour Street.
The timeline for completion of that phase is the end of July.
For stage two, the south-side lanes of West Victoria Street between the bridge and Seymour Street will be under construction.
Phase three will be the mirror opposite and phase four will concentrate on the portion between the north side of the fork of West Victoria Street and the bridge.
Work on the second stage is expected to last from mid-May to mid-September, stage three from mid-July to mid-November and stage four from the beginning of October to the middle of December.
The remainder of the work — through the winter and into next summer — will involve tying up loose ends of the project.
Power poles won’t come down until the new lines are in the ground, so their removal and portions of the south sidewalk will be completed in the spring of 2020, followed by installing the final layer of asphalt.
Traffic congestion is expected and the city is asking motorists have patience during the roadwork.
Though one lane in and out of downtown through the construction zone will be in place at all times.