By Breanne Massey

Pioneer Staff

Canadian ice hockey defenceman, Cory Sarich, has become the face of the Columbia Valleys campaign to advocate for safe biking and hiking trails near his familys vacation home.

Mr. Sarich, a former Calgary Flames player, suffered a life-threatening bicycling accident on Windermere Loop Road on July 21st, 2014.

After taking his hybrid bike along the challenging 40-minute valley workout, an oncoming grey Ford F-350 truck made a left-hand turn in front of him without signalling. Mr. Sarich tried to brake, but ultimately lost control of the bike and slid underneath the vehicle on his stomach.

The accident left Mr. Sarich with five cracked vertebrae, burns on his shoulder and wrist from the drivers muffler, road rash, swollen body parts, and a significant head injury.

It definitely was a setback in my career, he said, noting this season he could not play hockey professionally while still on the road to recovery.

I had full intentions of playing hockey again last season, and obviously, suffering all of the injuries that I did in the bike accident, it delayed that or put a wrinkle in it.

Mr. Sarich didnt play at all this season and spent the year resting and conditioning to recover from the accident.

A lot of it (recovering) at the start was just rest, obviously, because there were multiple injuries, he explained. Since then, its been a lot of work on my own. Ive done a lot of conditioning and general health-type of stuff.

In addition, Mr. Sarich saw a physiotherapist for a long time to help get his back moving like its supposed to and is taking the time to let his body heal properly.

Ive just come back to myself around March or April this spring, he said. I started training again and Im going to see if I can get a job playing hockey again somewhere this year.

He added the one-year mark is fast approaching and admits to now feeling normal.

Mr. Sarich agreed to represent the Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance as the Honorary Chairman of the Westside Legacy Trail Fundraising Committee to advocate for safe biking trails in the Columbia Valley that will move cyclists away from busy streets. He will also be featured on the promotional YouTube video that is being created to bring awareness to the project and raise $4 million to build the trail.

With what happened to me, I think my story speaks for itself, he said. I rode on some closed trails in Denver, Colorado and that got me into riding a little bit when I was down there the previous year. Coming back here, I had ridden a little bit on the Fairmont Road and on the Westside Road, and with proximity to vehicles, I always felt that theres got to be room for improvements here in the valley. I want to try and get the cyclists off of the road.

He voiced concern for the size of the shoulders on the local highways that many people use for exercise and added, What happened to me reiterates that. You hear all summer long about accidents here and there that have occurred to cyclists in general, but with closed roads, you can take an activity to a safe place and I feel like thats where the runners and the cyclists, everyone, needs to be. It would eliminate a lot of injuries and terrible stories that we hear happening throughout the valley, and its important to me to relay my message about why there should be a trail.

Mr. Sarich will be attending the Westside Trail Friend-raiser at the K2 Ranch on Westside Road in Invermere at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 25th. There will be live entertainment by the Iron Zipper band and a cash bar.

The Barn Dance at the K2 Ranch is Greenways official kickoff to raising the funds needed to build the Westside Legacy Trail, said Greenways executive director Mark Hawla by email.The event is all about creating awareness for this recreational asset that Greenways will build and the RDEK will maintain. The trail will create a unique social cohesion between those of us who live here, and those who want to, by allowing everyone to contribute and benefit from the trail for decades to come. With further awareness created from the K2 event, we begin our task of raising $4 million to put the trail in place.

Entry to the event will be by donation for invited guests only, with a minimum of $25 to get through the door.