April 8, 2013
Trail Alliance invited to adapt environmental screening tool for Provincial pilot
The Shuswap, British Columbia – The innovative work by the Shuswap Trail Alliance to better manage environmental impacts of recreational trails has caught provincial attention.
In 2009, the Shuswap Trail Alliance developed an environmental trail screening protocol for use in the region thanks to funding through Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust. The Provincial Recreation Sites and Trails office recently recognized the importance of that original work asking the Shuswap Trail Alliance to adapt the tool for a pilot study in other parts of the province.
“We’re pleased to be working with Trail Alliance leadership on this important project,” said Provincial Trails Manager, John Hawkings, who acknowledged environmental management has been identified as a top priority within the provincial trails strategy.
“The idea is to understand the potential impacts increased recreational use might have on local ecological communities, and make appropriate choices to limit those impacts,” says consulting biologist, Jeremy Ayotte, who developed the original environmental trail screening process with his colleague, noted plant biologist, Rachael Blotting, and Trail Alliance naturalist, John Coffey.
The process adapts similar guidelines used by BC Parks and other land management agencies into a format that can be used by local trail stewards. “We set out to understand current legislation that informs sustainable trail development,” said Ayotte, “and then make the connection between ecological values and trail design so that new trails will meet or exceed the most sustainable trail infrastructure possible.”
The original environmental trail screening tool devised by Ayotte relied on a series of linked computer data tables. “The new version will utilize a collaborative software platform giving trail developers and stake holders a step by step digital trail to collect and share critical information in a user-friendly and intuitive manner,” says publisher and designer, Louise Wallace, of Mediability Corporate Communications.
The need for more robust environmental guidelines and trail monitoring plans grew out of early discussions with regional leadership, including Secwepemc Nation leaders who were clear – before approving new trail infrastructure, they wanted to see clear evidence there was a commitment to improving how existing trails were being managed. Trails that were the cause of increased erosion and impacts to the environment were pointed to as examples, especially at locations like creek crossings.
“This is about taking ownership of the fact that we have an impact in the landscape when we go for a walk or a ride,” says Shuswap Trail Alliance coordinator, Phil McIntyre-Paul. “We created the Trail Alliance to help us manage our relationship within the natural environment more sustainably. This is about putting our commitment into action.”
The goal in the Shuswap is to develop environmental trail monitoring plans for every major trail system in the region, and to see the tool applied to new trail projects being considered for development. To date, seven environmental screening reviews have been developed for regional trails.
The Shuswap Trail Alliance is looking for volunteer stewards interested in helping to test the revised tool on local trails. To join the Shuswap Trail Stewards network, call 250-832-0102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteer days start this month, including with the annual Trail design/build workshop, April 19 & 20th.
Check out the event calendar at www.shuswaptrailalliance.com.