We fully support a well-planned network of recreation trails in the Invermere area. The high quality of life in our beautiful valley is based on a strong connection to nature, and both residents and visitors would benefit from a developed trail system.
Improved access, trailhead information, signage, and education on responsible use could be a win for everyone. But a successful plan must mirror the interests of a full range of public land users, community groups and businesses. It must have clear goals to minimize harm to wildlife, wildlife habitat, water quality, and sensitive areas such as alpine, grassland or wetlands.
Dense networks of trails and roads, or intense trail use, can displace or stress large animals such as grizzly bears and mountain goats. Multiple research studies show this. Introducing new trails into natural areas is not without consequence; its best to anticipate and avoid problems.
We commend the Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance for working to develop a trail system in our valley. And we agree that a network of well-designed trails will help diversify the local tourism economy. That said, we are puzzled why the Trails Vision proposed by the Alliance, and presented on Friday, April 7th, takes little notice of the natural setting and its many sensitive habitats.
The Vision report doesnt acknowledge that trails in the wrong places can have negative effects, likely making it hard to gain broad public agreement on the plan. If an independent conservation biologist assessed the trail networks potential costs to wildlife, we could better decide where trails should or should not be built.
A public trail system on public lands needs to be planned in an open and transparent way with government leadership and participation by a wide spectrum of people. We urge the Greenways Trail Alliance to recognize all environmental and community values by supporting a public process to achieve a trails and access management plan.
We must never take wildlife and wild places for granted. Lets make sure that if we develop a comprehensive trail system, its not at the expense of protecting nature.