By Greg Amos
An all-hands-on-deck approach is expected to result in more trails and better signage in the valley next year,
after eight outdoors-related groups comprised of more than 500 members recently joined forces to form the Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance.
“The alliance began by getting like-minded people from different outdoor groups who had not worked together in the past to expand and maintain our trail network together,” explained Mark Halwa, who chairs the new alliance.
The former Columbia River Greenways Alliance, along with the Columbia Valley Cycling Society, Summit Trail Makers, Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club, Purcell Mountain Bike School, Crazy Soles running group, Nipika Mountain Resort and most recently, Panorama Mountain Village, have come together to form the trail alliance. In addition, the Fairmont Trails Society and a Canal Flats trails group have been invited to join.
“In our initial meetings, we observed how many redundant activities each group was performing, and paying for, so it made economic sense to coordinate our efforts and begin working as a team,” said Mr. Halwa. “Everyone felt the key areas were building, funding and maintaining trails to reduce competitive funding requests, consolidate our insurance needs and have one land use agreement which could be used throughout the Columbia Valley.”
“Our activities revolve around creating trails in an open partnership with public and private land managers, ensuring proper signage exists and documenting the trails so residents and visitors know where the trails are and won’t get lost either finding, or using them,” he added.
The new partnership will directly aid the completion of a paved spine trail between Invermere and Radium Hot Springs, said Mr. Halwa. The route, already partially completed between Dry Gulch and Radium, will form a gently-graded connector that will benefit people of all fitness abilities, and will be wide enough to accommodate people on roller skis or those walking or running with baby strollers.
It will also provide access to more difficult hiking and biking trails located along the corridor.
The alliance was spurred by a trail building conference held in New Mexico in October 2012, where about 350 people from all over the world attended to find out how small towns build big trail networks. It gained momentum from a grant earlier this year from the Columbia Valley Community Foundation, which allowed the trail alliance to purchase a cargo and tool trailer, “enabling us to store and use each others’ equipment for summer trail building and maintenance,” explained Mr. Halwa.
Realizing that the Greenways group was a federally-registered charity with a 13-year history of successful projects and a functioning web site and online payment system, the groups decided to coordinate their activities under the Greenways umbrella, while sharing a single bookkeeper.
Taking cues from already-existing trail alliances in Fernie and in the Shuswap region, a new trail alliance board was formed, allowing each of the eight groups to have two members on it. One seat has been saved for a David Thompson Secondary student interested in gaining some experience as a working member of the board.
This winter, the shared trailer will be used by the Toby Creek Nordic club to transport skis and equipment to race venues throughout the province, and will serve as a waxing shed at events.
It will also be used to transport the cross-country ski track groomer from the Whiteway to Lake Lillian.
“If anyone is interested in getting involved, just join any one of the member groups and participate through that organization,” added Mr. Halwa. “We have big plans for 2014 and will have plenty of activities for full and part-time residents to get involved.”