A group of local trail users and leaders gathered to hear from Al Skucas, Past President for Trails BC at the RockWater on July 22, 2013. From Cranbrook, BC, Mr. Skucas is a long-time trail user and volunteer and his passion for trails was evident with his presentation on the Trans Canada Trail and trail programs across the Province.
While the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) is due for "connection" in 2017 (Canada's 150 birthday), there is no TCT support for spur lines from the TCT. However, that fact hasn't stopped strategic groups from planning and developing trails that can link up to the TCT after the opening date. The adjacent map shows that the closest TCT connection point is in Kimberley, with no plan for a spur line to run up the Columbia Valley (Source: Trails BC).
With many examples of trails alliances across the Province, Mr. Skucas explained that the majority are funded through a balance of core funding through local government support, donations, grants and membership/user fees. Each organization has found a different formula and involves a different sets of stakeholders. Some represent all non-motorized groups, while others have a broader vision. Some are working together, while others have stuck out on their own, supported by volunteer passion or funding along the way.
Motorized and non-motorized trail user groups have traditionally kept to themselves. Mr. Skucas suggested that motorized trail users may be subject to licencing in the near future as BC is the only province without it. But with licencing and measurement, may come support from the Province.
Some of the most successful projects Mr. Skucas has seen include "rails to trails" projects. Supported by the cities of Kimberley and Cranbrook, with land donated by Canadian Pacific Rail, the $2.8M North Star Rail Trail connects Kimberley to Cranbrook, opened in 2010 and now is the largest daily tourism activity in the region - a region where golf courses were once thought as the salvation. In fact, the trail is the most inquired activity at the Chamber of Commerce. Because of the path's high standard, consistent grade and proximity to the highway, both communities have even seen benefits. And an unlikely trails user groups, local senior citizens, have raided yard sales for second-hand bikes and almost take over the 17km paved path on week days. The Rail Trail has also been attributed to attracting new residents to relocate in the area.
Kicking Horse Country can boast world-class trails in the Moonrakers (XC biking), Mount 7 (downhill) and Dawn Mountain (Nordic) areas and Golden's 10km Rotary Trails systems is a great start to developing family-friendly trails and encouraging outdoor recreation for residents and tourists alike. However, Mr. Skucas suggests that in order to get a visitor to pull off the highway and spend an afternoon (which may turn into a night stay), the community should focus on offering at least 15km of scenic trails. The proposed 'Golden to Golf Course Trail' is a great opportunity and the community should determine if it is a priority.
Some communities do not stop with the construction of great trails. Across Canada, trails are being planned, designed and built with certain events in mind. With community support of events, Mr. Skucas has seen "mediocre" trails become great rallying points for community development and tourism.
The "Epic Trail" concept and designation (originating from International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA)) has brought destination visitors and the economic impact that follows. Rossland and Revelstoke are two nearby communities that are reaping the benefits of their major investments and planning in signature alpine summit trails. But Mr. Skucas cautions trails leaders to look and build to the future rather than the present. Will more extreme, multi-day, destination mountain biking adventures be as highly desired as they are today or will something else be in favour?
And compromise may be needed in order to attract the necessary user numbers and resources to properly plan, design, build, maintain and market signature trails. Rather than just biking trails or hiking trails or horseback riding trails, these user groups and others may be best served - and the community in general - through a collaborative effort. If they are not already, funders will be looking for this in the near future. And volunteers are always looking to where their greatest impact and benefit will be.
Back towards Golden, the closest trails alliances include the Columbia River Greenways Trails Alliance and the Shuswap Trails Alliance, with the latter receiving core funding from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD). While the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) does not provide any core financial support for trails organizations, the greater Columbia Valley community may be approaching an opportunity for local governments in the CSRD and RDEK to determine a larger regional plan and funding mechanism. This would likely need to be initiated in order to access some of the Province's $100,000 budget annually awarded for regional trails planning. And with talk of rebuilding the Province's Trails Branch, now may be just a great time for Golden's trails organizations to come together and develop a broader, collaborative mandate.
The presentation slides for the evening are available below. Please contact Ryan Watmough at 250-344-8610 or email@example.com if you have any interest in supporting trails activities and volunteers through the Community Team process.
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