For almost 14 years now a dedicated group of volunteers has been working on a project that would connect sections of existing trail between the towns of DArcy and Squamish into one Sea to Sky Trail.
The project got a major boost last summer when the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District created a standing committee to assess the feasibility of the project, and provided the committee with $23,000 to start work on a master plan.
Work continued through the winter, and on March 28 the standing committee presented its findings to the SLRD board namely that the Sea to Sky Trail is a feasible project, and enjoys support from local governments.
The SLRD endorsed the report and extended the standing committee additional funding to work with stakeholders, such as local governments and First Nations, to complete the master plan.
Gordon McKeever, a Whistler councillor and chair of the Sea to Sky Trail Standing Committee, presented the feasibility study to the SLRD.
"Weve had great response from groups near and far, and working with Cascade Environmental were now able to hammer out a master plan now that weve concluded the feasibility of the project," said McKeever. "They gave us an endorsement that were heading the right way, and were given the authority to carry on with additional community engagement especially with the three First Nations that are affected."
The next step is to go to stakeholders to get their input on the draft master plan, which will be taken into account for the final planning document. Theres no set schedule for completion, but McKeever says the trail proponents are working to ensure that it is processed in a timely way.
The standing committee is also in the process of producing a business plan for the trail, including the potential for public-private partnerships to raise money for trail building and maintenance.
The Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation has approved a total grant of $300,000 over five years for the trail. Its estimated that the total cost will be in the range of $3 million to $3.5 million to complete the entire 150 km trail, or about $20,000 per kilometre.
The trail itself will be about two metres wide with a maximum grade of four per cent, which is similar to Whistler trails like Tin Pants and Molly Hogan. The trail will be open for mountain biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and other non-motorized uses.
McKeever says the second phase of the project will involve connecting the trail to West Vancouver in the south.
Trail proponents had hoped to start construction this spring, but they cant proceed until they have a master plan approved by municipal and provincial governments, First Nations and other stakeholders along the route.