By Andrew Mitchell
The provincial government is taking the next step in an initiative to recognize and standardize recreational trails throughout the province by partnering with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District on an initiative that will contribute over $500,000 to trail work in the corridor.
On Tuesday, MLA Joan McIntyre and SLRD chair Russ Oakley announced an agreement that would see the province contribute $130,000 this year, $75,000 in 2008 and $50,000 in 2009 for a total of $255,000. For their part, the SLRD will contribute $150,000 a year in 2008 and 2009.
The money will be used to buy signage, build kiosks, boardwalks and other infrastructure, and to establish new trails and preserve existing trails.
The partnership extends from a new initiative by the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts to identify unsanctioned recreation trails throughout the province, create trail standards to meet safety and environmental concerns, and partner with communities, clubs and other organizations to ensure those trails are maintained. The province will provide some funding for trail maintenance and construction, in recognition of the growing contribution of trails to tourism and the recreational economy — as well as to the general health of British Columbians.
While the initiative will help to legitimize trails throughout the province, as well as identify which user groups have the right to use them, some bike clubs are concerned that the initiative will result in the closure of some trails, will increase the cost of recreation for small communities and clubs now responsible for maintaining those trails, and also result in the awarding of tenures to backcountry companies to use trails built and maintained for public use — with no mechanism to reapply any of their tenure fees or profits to the trails themselves.
On the plus side, by making trails “legitimate” the province will protect those trails from future development and resource extraction, provide insurance once they meet provincial standards, and provide money to groups maintaining the trails.
The pilot project was created to address those issues, and refine the partnership between trail users and the provincial government.
According to McIntyre, who represented the province at Tuesday’s announcement, the Sea to Sky corridor could become an example for the rest of the province.
“There are so many land use challenges in the corridor, such as the rapid growth of communities, and 2010 is on its way,” she said.
“This (funding) is in recognition that this is an important area, and also that there’s a proliferation of trails in this area — over 800 kilometres of trails outside of parks, and only 700 of them are authorized. They’re not in the official land use plan unless they’re authorized, but there’s a growing recognition of the contribution these trails make to communities, and where it makes sense we will work to link trails and authorize the trails in a sensible and common sense way.”