June 10, 2013
South Canoe Trails provide insight into a bigger picture
The Shuswap, British Columbia – It’s sometimes said to be careful what you wish for. Local leadership has been working on transforming the South Canoe trail system just east of Salmon Arm from an unmanaged free-for-all of social trails into a sustainable recreational trail system complete with signage, cooperation between user groups, ecological protection, and improved safety. And the recent results have been nothing but impressive – revived trailhead parking area, new separated trails for equestrian and mountain biking, and signs on the way – but not without a fair share of angst.
“Overall, the work done by all the volunteers, the trail crew, and leadership from the City and the Province has received lots of positive thumbs up,” says Shuswap Trail Alliance coordinator, Phil McIntyre-Paul. But he’s quick to note it’s a work in progress, with limited resources and volunteer time. So for some, the changes aren’t coming fast enough.
“It’s interesting,” says Phil, “it’s not until something we’ve come to assume exists is suddenly revealed to be actually quite vulnerable that we sit up and take notice. I think that’s happening for quite a few folks who enjoy these trails. Many of the social trails people have got used to using, particularly within and near our local communities, are often just evolved over time but were never formally authorized. “This makes them very vulnerable to being lost in a blink of an eye,” Phil points out.
Recent closures to several connector trails in the South Canoe system brought this bigger context to light for many trail users earlier in the spring. Due to several unauthorized trails that were built within wetland riparian areas, significant spring flooding resulted. The Provincial compliance and enforcement office had to insist the trails be closed until appropriate reroutes were planned out and sent through the appropriate channels for approval. It was stressed that to ensure the many different interests on the land are considered, including ecological, a trail requires appropriate authorization.
This is a message the collective efforts of the Shuswap Trail Alliance have helped to better understand. The Shuswap Trail Alliance has given the City of Salmon Arm, Provincial Recreational Sites and Trails, and local trail leadership the forum to implement a new recreational trail management plan for the area together. New signage for the trails is being developed with the City and Rec Sites and Trails BC, and further upgrades to the upper trails have been identified and are currently being prepared for final approvals.
“We’re really excited with the new burst of energy,” says Kevin Pattison, field project manager with the Shuswap Trail Alliance, who coordinated the most recent trail work at South Canoe. “With the next community planning meeting set for June 24th to review next steps and gather group consensus, we’re looking forward to continuing to help move things forward.”
The key to a great trail system is the leg work it takes on the ground to put the plans together, submit appropriate documentation for approvals, and then assemble the people and resources to actually implement the upgrades. “That takes time, so be sure to encourage all those trail stewards who have been out there helping to move things forward – and get involved yourself,” says Phil.
The next South Canoe Trail Stewards planning session is set for Monday, June 24, with a 6:30 pm orientation for people who are new to the project, and 7:15 pm full update and next step planning at the Salmon Arm Recreation Centre (Room 1, enter from back). Everyone interested is encouraged to attend.
The result, if the recent upgrades are any indicator, will be impressive – and likely even better than what we wished for.
PSA Text: South Canoe Trail Stewards Update – Monday, June 24 – 6:30 pm orientation for people new to the advisory, 7:15 pm full update and next step planning at Salmon Arm Rec Centre (Room 1, enter from back). All welcome. Gather with friends of South Canoe Trails to help keep things moving forward. The lower trail upgrades are near complete, with additions for mountain biking, hiking, and equestrian use. Trail signs and equestrian step-overs still to be installed. Upper trail improvements need volunteers to help with further planning, upgrades to solve water problems, new additions, and signs. Thanks to the involvement to date of so many volunteers, the City of Salmon Arm, and the Shuswap Trail Alliance trail team who have helped to get things so far. Hang in there – lots more to do, and lots more to learn together along the way. We’re getting there!