(BRIDGE LAKE) The “Entrance to the Bear World” will be graced by a magnificent menagerie of First Nations animal artwork.

The crowd at an event marking a milestone in the Ice Caves Project at Bridge Lake got a sneak peak of the beautiful Indigenous art that will greet visitors once work on the site is completed.

“This amazing artwork will create a truly unique experience for the visitors,” said Helga Zeiner, Ice Caves Heritage Trail Coordinator.

The Ice Caves at Bridge Lake are known to the local First Nations as the “Entrance to the Bear World.” This unique site is being transformed into a unique, family-friendly heritage area that incorporates fitness and recreation components.

When finished, two totem poles with bear top symbols will greet visitors at the entrance to the parking area off Highway 24. They’ll be carved by Canim Lake First Nation artist Jerome Boyce, who helped unveil a miniature totem pole to give the crowd a preview of the full-sized carvings to come.

A project logo created by local artist Jil Freeman and based on Boyce’s totem design was also unveiled at the event.

The event also gave attendees a glimpse at the work being done at the site as part of the Jobs Creation Partnership (JCP) Project. The JCP Project is providing much-needed amenities for the Ice Caves complex, including an upgraded parking lot, trail and bridge construction and outhouse facilities.

The Ice Caves Project is led by the Fishing Highway 24 Tourist Association (FHTA), one of the partners in the JCP Project. The other project partners are the New Pathways to Gold Society (NPTGS), Canim Lake First Nation, Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail Regional Management Committee, the Government of B.C. and the Government of Canada.

“This project is helping to create an outdoor recreational destination that will promote tourism, strengthen the Interlakes infra-structure and benefit local families and visitors alike,” said Cheryl Chapman, NPTGS First Nations Co-chair.

“And it’s tremendous to see so much First Nations tradition interpreted and expressed at this site.”

In addition to the two totems for the entrance, Boyce will carve smaller posts for the fitness stations to be built at the site. Each post will feature a traditional animal representing the Bridge Lake area. Raven, Beaver, Owl, Eagle, Otter, Wolf, Coyote, and Loon posts will be installed.

The FHTA has been an incorporated not-for-profit association under the Societies Act since 2011. The association represents members which offer services to visitors and locals alike. Bridge Lake and the Ice Caves are located in the Interlakes area on Fishing Highway 24, midway between Lone Butte (Hwy 24) and Little Fort on Highway 5, some 56 km southeast of 100 Mile House.