Province seeks input on trails plan

Local groups look at making links

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British Columbians have been invited to provide their opinions about a provincial trails strategy by participating in an online engagement process open through February.

The Provincial Trails Advisory Body, co-chaired by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and the Outdoor Recreation Council, began a formal review of the trails strategy for B.C. in 2019. 

The resulting draft strategy includes 20 action points plus two actions for implementation. These are to establish a provincial trails advisory body; and to “support existing local and regional trail committees or groups, and where not present encourage their establishment, so that they can assist implementation and continuous improvement of the trails strategy.” 

The strategy considers all types of trails and users, from hiking paths to those suitable for horseback riders, cyclists, ATV vehicles and snowmobiles, as well as disabled users. Mixed-use commuter pathways are also part of the exercise.

The Salt Spring Parks and Recreation Commission is one of the main players building and maintaining trails on the island, often by negotiating access to designated rights-of-way. It can also receive trail dedications as part of subdivisions and makes its own land acquisitions. CRD trails overseen by PARC include the 15-kilometre Channel Ridge system, trails in Mouat, Duck Creek and Peter Arnell parks and connector trails to the provincial Mount Erskine and Mount Maxwell parks, among others.

According to data collected for PARC’s 2019-2029 strategic plan, trails are a key recreational asset with proven benefits to residents, the economy and the environment. In fact, trails get the highest use out of any PARC amenity. 

Trail maintenance in all provincial parks on the island is provided by contract to the volunteer-run Salt Spring Trail and Nature Club. Newly elected president Charles Kahn said the group could be moving into more trail creation as well. 

“I think we could do a lot more in terms of trail  development,” Kahn said, noting a new system of sharing insurance in the southern Gulf Islands has allowed local trail groups to enter into agreements with private landowners. 

Kahn said the Salt Spring Trail and Nature Club is currently working on an arrangement with a private landowner in the Mount Tuam/Musgrave Landing area that will link trails on Crown land and an ecological reserve. Some club members are also keen to create formal connections between trails on individual mountains, and lands that could be donated as future parks are also of interest.

How the group might benefit by a provincial trails strategy remains to be seen, but the draft document does speak to reducing liability concerns and creating a sustainable model for trail development and maintenance.

Feedback on the draft strategy will be accepted until 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28 at https://engage.gov.bc.ca/govtogetherbc/consultation/trails-strategy-review/.

For more on this story, see the Feb. 5, 2020 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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