Column: Building better trails in Chilliwack

Keep your eyes posted as we the snow lifts in the Spring of 2015 and the Chilliwack Trails Society begins their work on our needy trails.

What does it take to build a trail? It seems so simple doesn’t it? Cut down a few bushes and push some soil around and there you have it, a lovely path through the outdoors that is now able to help facilitate great experiences. This was my perception only a few years ago, and in this opinion I shared the view of many other people in Chilliwack when the status of our trail network was a constant source of frustration for me.

Over the last few years I have learned a lot about the process of building trails from planning to building, to operating.  The process is often very complicated and it begins with thorough consultation with the proposed users of the trail, First Nations groups, those who might be impacted by it, and the government agencies whose lands it falls on. The questions almost immediately begin to rise around the topic of who will maintain the trail into the future? How do we ensure that the trails will see protection from impacts such as logging and development? And who will fund the construction and implementation of the plan?

In the past the building of trails was easier. Trails were built without permission from the government agencies that manage our public lands and park lands. Trails were built to whatever standard the builder seemed capable of, and the maintenance was left to volunteers and casual trail users who were willing to move a branch or kick a rock out of the way if they happened to be passing by. In this way our trails have remained in a certain state that is now viewed by most users as sub-standard.

How do we change this you might ask? Well the team at Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors asked this as well and the answer ultimately came down to the need for hours spent dealing with these issues, both during the planning stages as well as the long-term management of the trails network.  We saw a need for a third party group, whose mandate is strictly trails, to manage our trial network and help to build Chilliwack’s backcountry into a world-class destination.

This was the genesis of the Chilliwack Trails Society, founded by Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors, however operating under its own mandate moving forward. A board of directors from a multitude of stake-holder groups will be tasked with giving the group direction moving forward, as well as helping in the funding of the work that the CTS does. Mt. Waddington’s is dedicated to kick starting the Chilliwack Trails Society and has just implemented a new initiative to donate one per cent of our annual profits to the newly founded group.

I have spent the last months trying to find other groups willing to support this concept and add to the funding that we have pledged, and the momentum has been gaining! The Chilliwack Forest District, Tourism Chilliwack, CEPCO, The Chilliwack Outdoors Club and the Give’r Take Around the Lake Society have all dedicated to helping fund the Society into the future. These groups will make up the board of directors for the society along with representatives from Chilliwack Search and Rescue, SD33 Outdoor Education Programs and Provincial Parks to ensure that the work being done is in line with what this community needs.

Keep your eyes posted as we the snow lifts in the Spring of 2015 and the Chilliwack Trails Society begins their work on our needy trails. Their work will be cut out for them initially to brush out and maintain the already established trails in the Chilliwack area. However the mandate of the CTS will also be to plan, and build new trails, to fill in the needs gaps for the Chilliwack area.

I dream of overnight trails along ridgelines with camping tent pads to allow hikers to extend their stay in the Outdoors. As well we need more short beginner grade trails leading to waterfalls, old growth forests and the like to make the backcountry more accessible to everyone.

The Chilliwack Trails Society will also be coordinating groups of volunteers to help with the trail building efforts and we will keep you posted on how you can get involved. Our aim is to make the CTS a registered charity to allow for the community to help us raise funds. For more information at this time you can contact Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors.

“Of all the paths you take in life make sure a few of them are dirt.”

Sam Waddington is Owner of Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors: “Equipping you for rock, water, snow, sand, wind and anything else the outdoors can throw at you!”