Community Forest trail-building continues on Sunday

Explore Chilliwack: Volunteers have made great progress building trails in the Community Forest. The fun continues Sept. 27 at 1 p.m.

The Community Forest project is seeking volunteers for the next trail-building day on Sunday

Summer’s end won’t slow the Chilliwack Park Society down. The next scheduled trail-building day is Sunday, Sept. 27 beginning at 1:00 p.m. at 51996 Allan Road.

Runners, hikers and mountain bikers, these trails are for you. Sunday’s efforts will focus on developing an ascending trail, part of a the 2.5 km moderate loop.

Volunteers made great strides throughout the summer. “The 2 km beginner loop is now finished and ridable,” said project manager Marc Greidanus.

The Community Forest project, created in partnership between the Chilliwack Park Society and the City of Chilliwack, has been active since June, converting over 100 acres of forest land into a community park.

For a short time, the massive old-growth forest area was used for selective logging. “When we were a tiny town of 10,000 people, it made sense to do that,” said Coun. Sam Waddington.

Greidanus explained that despite having “a few small cut blocks,” and a triangular portion sold to a developer who was interested in building a ski hill gondola, the forest remained largely untouched since it was logged 100 years ago.

In fact, It almost became forgotten territory. But when Greidanus and Waddington came across the land in fall of 2014, they thought it would be a great area to put in a trailhead, leading up to the Elk-Thurston saddle.

When they approached the city with the proposed access point, Glen MacPherson, Director of Operations, saw the potential.

The Community Forest Project is one with incredible foresight.  As the Eastern Hillsides undergo significant residential growth, having a park nearby is essential. Additionally, it preserves the ancient wilderness, and the forest is ideally situated to eventually create access links to Popkum, Marble Hill and Ryder Lake, Greidanus explained.

Due to the combined efforts of the Chilliwack Park Society and the city, the Community Forest will be “one of the biggest municipal park developments in the Lower Mainland in the last 50 years,” Waddington expressed.

And volunteers are making it happen, right now.

The community has had a great response to the project and are eager to get involved.

Kerry Frayne, from the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association (FVMBA) “has done the work of 10 men,” Greidanus enthused. “His help and the FVMBA’s guidance have elevated this trail system.”

Beginning next week, Unity Christian School’s shop class will be building and installing low bridges, culverts, retaining walls and drainage control for the beginner trail.

elk steps (photo by Aaron Froc)Professional trail-builder Ewan Fafard has recently completed new cedar steps at the top of Elk Mountain, and he’s been hired to work on the more difficult, downhill flow portion of the moderate loop in the Community Forest beginning next week.

The volunteers use fallen or donated timber to make park-style furniture to set up in the forest, like benches and picnic tables. They’ve recently received a large supply of timber from Denbow, a company that processes forest residuals.

There are also plans to develop an educational component to the forest, including interpretive signage and, potentially, a historical tour of First Nations land use.

“We have seen a fantastic turnout from the community with over 50 people attending the last few trail days,” said Greidanus. And he is sending out the call once again.

The Chilliwack Community Forest is located at 51996 Allan Road. If you want to take part in the trail-building on Sunday, bring closed-toed shoes, work gloves, a shovel and water. Trail-building begins at 1 p.m. and will take place rain or shine.

To learn more about the project, visit chillliwackparksociety.ca.

Do you have a favourite place to explore in Chilliwack? Email sam.bates@theprogress.com.

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