Taking steps to legislating Vedder Mountain as a designated provincial recreation site and an interpretive forest is a welcome move that would go a long way to solving a lot of issues around its management, conservation, and multiple use. (Chilliwack Progress, March 21)
This much loved mountain that is home to bears, cougars, bobcats, deer, coyotes, birds, rare amphibians and plants is steeped in history with enduring ties to culture and trade. For centuries it was a source of food for aboriginal people and the slopes were networked with trails used by native bands as they travelled, hunted, gathered foods and traded with bands further south. Nooksack people accessed fur traders in Fort Langley by travelling over the mountain through the low point known as Lemola Pass as early as 1832.
In 1858 the British Royal Engineers worked with the Americans establishing the 49th parallel by logging a swath of timber 12 metres wide from the coast through the Cascade range with a camp at the base of the mountain. The mountain was also eyed as a route to link with trails to the Cariboo gold fields. In 1922 it became the focus for another form of gold in the form of massive cedars and firs growing in unique soils that were logged as settlement and industry grew.
Logging is still permitted but today Vedder Mountain is the go-to destination for outdoor lovers of every kind from hikers and horse riders to mountain bikers, dirt bikers, ATV and motor cycle riders. A decade ago they came together with a common passion to protect their recreational pursuits and improve, create, maintain, name and document every trail on the mountain under the umbrella of the Vedder Mountain Trails Association.
Now, going a step further, the Association has been working closely with forestry to legislate Vedder Mountain as a working interpretive forest.
“The establishment of this area as a recreational site will ensure that there is budgeted money available for maintenance and management,” said Dr. Mark Steinebach, president of VTMA and local veterinarian. “In addition it will allow access to grants and monies for further development and management. The area would be considered a provincial resource and as with any resource it will need managing. As it stands now, the recreational interests and values of its users have no legal status or position as far as the government is concerned.”
Sanctioning the area as an interpretive forest would see it upgrade to the profile of other recreational sites with established parking, staging areas for trail users, information booths, toilet and garbage facilities, and eventually day use and camping areas. There would also be some much needed by-law enforcement to stop the unsightly dumping of waste, household items and cars that currently scar the mountain.
“There would be provincial money directed through the local recreation office budget as well as other provincial and federal funds and possibly grants,” said Steinebach. “(All) this will help with development and maintenance of the trail network. At preset all of this work is done by our dedicated volunteers at our own expense. If we didn’t do this, the trails would be unsafe, unsustainable and unusable. Presently, we get a little help from the government (and) they do help with purchase of tools and supplies from time to time. VMTA volunteers contribute thousands of hours of labour per year to this effort.”
How effective this will be, said Steinebach, time will tell. But it has to be better than what is going on up the mountain right now.
The Recreation Sites and Trails BC Branch has organized and Open House tomorrow night Wednesday, March 27 at the Yarrow Community School, 4595 Wilson Road, Yarrow, 7-9 pm.