It doesn’t look like much yet, but when you’re planning a 180 km trail, two metres wide, from Squamish to D’Arcy you have to start somewhere.
A week ago the Resort Municipality of Whistler began work on one section of the trail, near Function Junction in an area just south of the Trash mountain bike trail. The section is just over one kilometre, and will provide an alternative route to the Cal-Cheak Campground when it is completed.
Councillor Gordon McKeever, chair of the Sea to Sky Trail Standing Committee, hailed the new section of trail as a step in the right direction.
"The RMOW’s parks department has, as part of its mandate, to assist in the development of a regional trail system. Within the parks’ budget there is an allocation for trail building, and for the last few years that has been dedicated to the mid-Flank trail on Sproatt. Now we’ve come to working on a regional trail system, and that is the Sea to Sky Trail," he said.
The new construction falls within municipal boundaries. Other sections will require the approval of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, local governments, and Crown Corporations affected by the trail right of way.
That is also progressing, according to McKeever.
"The Master Plan has already been presented to the SLRD in draft form, and was received by them which means the general direction was approved. After that we were told to go forward for technical review from a variety of sources and stakeholders, like local government, First Nations, provincial ministries, and right now we’re in the midst of that technical review.
"What we have now is 22 pieces of trail, or what we call character segments, each of which can be handled as a specific project," added McKeever. "For example, we’re now looking at the character segment for the Jack Webster Bridge north of Squamish up to the highway at the Cheakamus Canyon – the route traditionally taken by the Cheakamus Challenge bike race."
Each section will be bid on separately. In some cases entire new sections of trail are needed, while in others their may be adjustments or upgrades to existing trail.
McKeever says Sea to Sky Trail proponents accept that it’s going to be a long process getting the necessary approvals for each section, but are encouraged that things are moving forward.
As for the new section of trail he cautions people that it doesn’t look like much yet.
"It’s quite a noticeable bit of trail work, quite a bit wider than most people would expect, but that has to do with the machines required to do the work at this stage," he said. "It’s not a road, however. When the trail is finished the sides will be cleaned up and it will be a lot narrower than what you see there."
The new section of trail will take some of the hills out of the current route, which follows an old service road, although McKeevers says there will still be a few steeper grades in the area.
"It’s not meant to be a commuter trail, it’s meant to be optimized for mountain bike use – not technical, but not a Valley Trail kind of cruising either," he said. "There will be some twists and turns and ups and downs, and some steeper pitches than we hoped. There’s always going to be challenges, and we are in the mountains after all."