Owen Hills lookout

History of Owen Fire lookout restored

Owen lookout, restored this summer by the Houston Hikers group, has 55 years of history in the Houston community.

Owen lookout, which was restored this summer by the Houston Hikers group, has 55 years of history in the Houston community.

Built in 1957, the Owen Hills Fire Lookout was manned from May to September for about 20 years, said John Keefe, 1948-1961 forest ranger.

Dick Aitken and Bruce Campbell were the lookout men for most of those 20 years, manning it 24 hours a day, said Keefe.

Aitken, even with an artificial leg, was a quality lookout man for eight years, and Campbell for 12, said Keefe.

“The tourists that used to go up there used to get a kick out of [Campbell], with a rifle around his back all the time and a big hunting knife hanging from his belt,” Keefe laughed.

And though the men painted the lookout every year just to keep themselves busy, they were valued members of the Ministry of Forests, doing a lot more than just spotting fires, said Keefe.

“The communication link that they had in the organization was quite significant,” Keefe said, adding that the Nanika lookout, built in 1959, was not able to communicate with Houston and had to relay everything through Owen.

The strategic location made Owen quite valuable because of its significant help within the communication system.

1983 was the last year that Owen lookout was manned, and in 1989 it was considered a secondary lookout, only for emergencies, said Forest Protection Officer Jim Highsted.

Then, in 1990, they built Story lookout on the shoulder of Morice Mountain, which has a better view than Owen, Highsted said.

By 2000 Owen lookout was in pretty bad shape, but they did some clean up around the lookout because people were talking about making it into a recreation site, said Highsted.

But they didn’t do any real repairs because of their budget, Highsted said, adding that it’s great that the lookout is now being restored because it’s quite a nice hike.

Now, with efforts from Houston Hikers and other community volunteers, Owen lookout will become a valued site once again – this time as a scenic and historic destination for hikers, bikers, snowshoers and skiers alike.

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