Happy Trails: Hard work pays off in Chilliwack River Valley

Volunteers and organizations pull together to roll out welcome mat to "best backcountry trails in the world"

Mayor Sharon Gaetz hugs Ts’elxweyeqw Tribe director Brenda Wallace at a ceremony to celebrate trail work completed in the Chilliwack River Valley.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz hugs Ts’elxweyeqw Tribe director Brenda Wallace at a ceremony to celebrate trail work completed in the Chilliwack River Valley.

The welcome mat has officially been rolled out in the Chilliwack River Valley.

Volunteers have put in hundreds of hours of sweat equity getting more than 70 km of trails back into tiptop shape for hikers. They’ve been brushing and clearing, putting in new foot bridges, addressing erosion and upgrading trail beds that were in need of TLC.

That work is almost completed now, and the group in charge, the Chilliwack River Valley Hiking Trails Rehabilitation Project committee, celebrated on Tuesday morning.

They met up with their many supporters and partners at one of the valley’s most popular and accessible trailheads, the Bridlewood Trail.

For years, it’s been a spot that many enthusiastic visitors have probably driven past without even realizing it. The trail begins at a gravel pullout near the beginning of Chilliwack Lake Road. From there, several sets of steep stairs that lead up into the woods as Bridlewood heads up into the heart of Promontory. The trail also forks off to the Salmon Ridge Trail, which offers a sweeping view of the Chilliwack River Valley.

It’s a favourite spot for those who know about it. But for those who didn’t even know how to find the trail, there’s no missing it now.

The trail committee managed to find $75,000 in funding to help promote the valley’s best trails, and with that funding they were able to have beautiful kiosks installed at 13 different trailheads, including Bridlewood. The kiosks display a map of the area, explain the rules and courtesies of hiking, and highlight many of the indigenous plants and trees in the area.

The benefits of the trail improvements are numerous, and several speakers at the celebration offered congratulations to all the parties involved in making it all happen.

The signs and kiosks will make finding places like Bridlewood, Lindeman and Greendrop Lakes that much easier. It’s expected the increased awareness will encourage more residents to get out and explore the trails, while adding appeal to tourists.

It’s a big step toward building “sustainable, low impact, recreational economy,” said FVRD area director Orion Engar. He called the area an “under-appreciated jewel,” one that he only discovered after returning from traveling the world.

“It had been under my nose all the time,” he said.

Activities like hiking open people’s eyes to the importance in living more sustainable, healtheir lives, he added.

“We are invigorated, happier, and think more positively when we are outside,” he said.

Councillor Sam Waddington, an avid hiker and guide, said Chilliwack is home to “some of the best backcountry trails in the world.”

But the experience is not ideal when hikers can’t find the trailheads, or get lost along the way.

Possibly the most important step made in the project was partnering with the Ts’elxweyeqw Tribe, who welcomed the improvements in the area.

Tribe members planted species significant to their culture such as, birch, red cedar, black cottonwood, licorice fern, red flowering current, juniper, and other traditional plants. The kiosks explain the plants and their meaning, the First Nation’s connection to the area, and the ecological importance of the forests, mountains and the river valley and why we must respect and protect them.

Funding was secured from the National Trails Coalition, a TD Green Streets Grant, and the BC Parks Enhancement Fund. Other partners include Community Futures South Fraser, Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors, Tourism Chilliwack, Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation, Fraser Valley Regional District, Around The Lake Give R Take 30, Chilliwack Outdoor Club, Federation of Mountain Clubs BC, City of Chilliwack, Recreation Sites and Trails BC and the Chilliwack Parks Society.

Correction: A printed version and early web version of this story incorrectly stated Chilliwack River Road as the start of the Bridlewood Trail.