CLEARING TRAIL Summit Trail Makers Society member, Barry Hawes, puts his logging background to work as he helps clear avalanche debris from Septep Creek this summer. Photo submitted

By Joshua Estabrooks

Pioneer Staff

Over the past 11 years, a local group of backcountry enthusiasts has been looking after a number of popular hiking trails in the Columbia Valley. This year has been their most successful year yet, with more members and funding than ever before.

The Summit Trail Makers Society started as a small group of dedicated hikers over a decade ago, explained current president, Norbert Schab, but has now become an army of over 150 volunteers, fully equipped with chainsaws, brush saws and the desire to keep our local trails in tip top shape.

The group has a contract with the Ministry of Forests to maintain and manage the Lake of the Hanging Glacier Trail, Chalice Creek Trail, Welsh Creek Trail and McLean Creek Trail. As well, they are providing assistance in planning and officially establishing Assiniboine Lake Trail, Bugaboo Pass Trail, Jumbo Point Trail, Farnham/Commander Glacier Trail, Silver Basin Trail and Brewer Creek Trail, by gathering GPS coordinates so they can be officially entered into the ministrys inventory.

Every year, the Trail Makers install and remove the bridge over Hellroaring Creek on the Lake of the Hanging Glacier Trail, but they also undertook some much-needed brushing and tree removal this summer as well. They brushed out McLean Lake Trail and Welsh Lake Trail and removed avalanche debris on Chalice Creek Trail and Septet Trail.

Most recently, the group attempted to do some work on the road leading to the Brewer Creek Trailhead, but a freak snowstorm postponed their efforts until spring.

For Mr. Schab, keeping the many trails in the area in good repair is not only a matter of keeping things safe for residents, but also a way to encourage and increase tourism, as properly maintained trails make for more pleasant backcountry experiences.

We started the society so we could also have a voice on what goes on with the trails in the area. We have a lot of members who dont even hike, but they are interested in orderly maintenance on the trails. People like the idea that someone is looking after the trails.

The Trail Makers have worked, and are willing to work, with any and all backcountry groups who would like to collaborate their efforts with them, Mr. Schab said. The group has set up a mass e-mail list so all members can receive updates on hikes and work projects, and to allow them to have a unified voice when discussing local trails.

Currently, the Summit Trail Makers Society is funded through grants from the Columbia Basin Trust, Regional District of East Kootenay and the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, as well as membership fees. To learn more, or sign up, e-mail summittrailhiking@gmail.com.