A mountain biker rips down a trail at Mt. Swansea, where a $115,000 upgrade promises new adventure next autumn. Photo by Kristian Rasmussen

By Kate Irwin

Pioneer Staff

An $115,000 upgrade project at Mount Swansea should be complete next autumn, including revamped cycling and biking trails, new signs and upgraded mountaintop facilities.

The Columbia Valley Cycling Society is spearheading the work, which will be undertaken thanks to collaboration between local recreation groups and volunteers.

The cycling society president, Adrian Bergles, found out at the start of the month that his group had secured the funding needed to move ahead from the federal governments Western Economic Diversification Canada department.

I was very pleasantly surprised when David Wilks [Kootenay-Columbia MP] called to tell me, he said. Weve been cobbling grants together to reach our total budget of $114,350.

Half of the project funding came from the federal government, while the Columbia Basin Trust awarded another quarter of the money needed to the group.

The idea for the upgrade project first began to form in summer 2011 when representatives from the cycling society, local trail running groups and local hang-gliders and paragliders met. All three groups are regular users of the facilities at Swansea and decided to work together to ensure the mountains trails and signage are the best they can be.

While the cycling society has been carrying out annual trail maintenance since 2010, they did not have the funding available for all the upgrades members were hoping for.

Working to develop partnerships with other groups means we can improve the facilities for all users, both local and out-of-town visitors, Mr. Bergles emphasized. We want a really vibrant trail network within the Columbia Valley were already at a higher level than ever before.

The work to be undertaken at Mount Swansea from spring to autumn 2013 will include repairing eroded sections of trails, rerouting some trails to preserve wildlife habitats and establishing a single route from the mountains upper parking lot to its peak.

Improved trail signage will be installed, as well as interpretative panels detailing some of the mountains history and flora and fauna.

We will have professional trail designers set the course and a sustainable, user-friendly walking route will be set, Mr. Bergles explained.

Along with trail upgrades, work crews will also improve the hang-glider and paraglider launch sites on the mountaintop, fix up the surface atop the mountain to give pilots a safer launch, and install a weather station and wind sock to allow fliers to determine safe launching conditions.

Were hoping to make Swansea into a showpiece of whats possible, Mr. Bergles said. We want to promote world-class trails in the valley Hiking and biking trails are big requests at our local visitor centres.

The Mount Swansea upgrades are just the beginning if local recreational groups can learn to collaborate on projects such as this, he added.

The cycling society is all about creating a unified local group working together to improve overall access, safety and environmental sustainability.

To learn more about the Columbia Valley Cycling Society or to volunteer to help with the Swansea upgrade project, visit www.columbiavalleycyclingsociety.org .