The Okanagan Rail Trail between Lake Country and Coldstream was a busy place last weekend with not only hundreds of hikers and bikers but trail ambassadors with the Friends of Okanagan Rail Trail (FORT) and a dog control officer with the North Okanagan Regional District.

As a pilot project, Tom and Phyllis Turner set up a FORT information booth at the Oyama ORT/boat launch parking lot with another booth at Kickwillie Loop in Coldstream. The Turners and other volunteers wearing high vis vests welcomed trail users, answered questions, asked for user thoughts about how to improve the trail and even cycled the trail to greet those who didn’t pass their Oyama booth.

Preliminary results from the user survey on the first weekend show 89 per cent gave their trail experience a five-star rating with 44 per cent saying they use the trail once a week or more.

“Trail ambassadors are the face of Friends of the Okanagan Rail Trail, working to support fundraising for trailside improvements and other programs to improve your trail experience,” says the Facebook page, facebook.com/okanaganrailtrail.

The dog control officer cautiously drove the trail in a marked NORD pickup checking that all dog owners had their pets on a leash. He was pleased to report that everyone so far had complied with the requirement.

One of the FORT trail ambassadors cycling the trail said an unleashed dog bit him on the leg while he was on another outing. Several users reported they had been chased by unleashed dogs.

The new non-profit society, FORT, was formed “to support future work to make the trail the best it can be.” Many of the FORT foundational members came from the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative, the volunteer group that supported the successful $7.8-million community fundraising campaign to build the trail.

The trail owner jurisdictions — City of Kelowna, District of Lake Country, NORD, District of Coldstream (and eventually Okanagan Indian Band) — have endorsed FORT as the official NGO (non-governmental organization) partner and are now working together to determine priorities.

That wasn’t the only ORT experience this week. On Wednesday, 11 members of the Central Okanagan Outdoors Club cycled what the Sheriff has nicknamed the Grand Kelowna Triangle, plus a challenging leg in Knox Mountain Park.

The triangle involves the rail trail, Mission Creek Greenway and the waterfront pathway along Lakeshore Road, Abbott Street, City Park Promenade, Waterfront Park and Rotary Marshes.

From Manhattan Drive, our biking group headed north on Ellis Street, then Poplar Point Drive to the start of Paul’s Tomb Trail. On the way back from the quiet bay, we headed up the challenging hill to the first lookout in Knox Mountain Park and then down Knox Mountain Drive to Royal View Drive to Mountain Avenue and Spall-Clement ORT. Lunch was at the Wednesday Farmers’ Market on Dilworth Drive before heading west on Mission Creek Greenway back to the waterfront. Highly recommended on a Wednesday.

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In other outdoors news, Friends of Fintry invite you to take a step back in time 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on July 14 for the 2019 Fintry Summer Fair.

The fair, located at Fintry Provincial Park off Westside Road between Kelowna and Vernon, will offer tours of the historical Fintry Estate Manor and unique octagonal dairy barn, live music including bagpipers, vendors, ice cream and kids’ games. Admission is by donation. Dogs on leash are welcome. Fintry is rich in history, thanks to Okanagan pioneer Captain James Dun-Waters.

Friends of Fintry hosts three unique fairs each season that are fun for the whole family, plus other events throughout the year. The Fintry Spring Fair was on Mother’s Day and the Fintry Fall Fair will be on Sept. 8.

For those who haven’t visited this provincial park, it has a large campground, boat launch, playground, cooking shelters, shower houses and two kilometres of beautiful sandy beach. The area is perfect for boating, kayaking, swimming and hiking up to the gorgeous falls, but you can also view many species of wildlife and birds or go on a high-tech treasure hunt to find geocaches.

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BC Parks’ ban on e-bikes in provincial parks means there are a lot of questions about where they are allowed.

This week, the Sheriff received an inquiry from a column reader about cycling the Kettle Valley Railway between Christina Lake and Castlegar (where a group of us cycled in early June).

The Sheriff told her it is confusing because the KVR is part of the 600 trails governed by BC Recreation Sites and Trails which announced in April that e-bikes are allowed. Since the KVR there doesn’t pass through any provincial parks, they are OK.

The Sheriff was told that BC Parks is reviewing its policy on bicycles, e-bikes and motorized-use in provincial parks to see what changes might be necessary. The current policy bans all motorized use in provincial parks except on park roads and mixed-use trails designated for motorized and non-motorized use. There is no date set for completion or introduction of a BC Parks’ e-bike policy.

The Sheriff was told: “Currently, e-bikes are not allowed on trails in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park.”

So you can e-bike the KVR from Penticton up to Naramata to Little Tunnel to Chute Lake to the border of Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park but you can’t legally enter the park. You can, however, follow June Springs Road (Little White Forest Service Road) at the west end of the Myra Canyon down into Kelowna.

The column reader doesn’t understand why there are such confusing provincial policies. “I would like to know whom I need to get a hold of to find out why. With an e-bike you get help, but that does not mean it works without you pedalling. I am 70 years old but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up biking.”

BC Parks argues: “Because of the special nature of provincial parks and the importance of conservation, the considerations that apply in provincial parks are slightly different than those that apply on other Crown land under the policy that was just released.”

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You can enjoy a summer evening in a Central Okanagan regional park and join one of its park interpreters from 7 to 8 p.m. as they introduce some of the local wildlife. This free, drop-in program does not require registration.

Dates and locations for Meet Your Wild Neighbours: Wednesday, (July 10): Bats at Bertram Creek Regional Park; July 25: Birds at Kopje Regional Park; Aug. 8: Snakes at Bertram Creek Regional Park; and Aug. 21: Bears at Hardy Falls Regional Park.

For more information, go to: regionaldistrict.com/parksevents, drop-in or call the Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan at 250-469-6140.

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If you join one of the Wild Walks, you can learn some secrets and natural features of various regional parks. A park interpreter will turn an ordinary walk in the park into something extraordinary

Each of the Wild Walks lasts approximately two hours, is suitable for all ages including families with young children, and ranges from easy to moderate in difficulty. Saturday walks start at 10 a.m. and Wednesday walks at 1 p.m., rain or shine, so participants should dress for conditions. Remember to bring sun protection. There’s no cost to take part but pre-register for Wild Walks on the following dates and locations:

• Today (July 6) and Wednesday, (July 10): Mission Creek Greenway; this is really a ‘wild rides’ program this month, exploring the popular recreation trail by bicycle. Bring your own bicycle and helmet. Everyone will leave from and return to the Lakeshore Road trail entrance.

• Aug. 17 and 21: Mill Creek Regional Park; meet at the Spencer Road park entrance, and check out the creekside trail leading to a waterfall and ponds.

To save a spot for yourself or your family, drop in to the Environmen-tal Education Centre for the Okanagan, email eeco@cord.bc.ca or phone 250-469-6140.

These free events are held in conjunction with the Community Recreational Initiatives Society (CRIS) to provide barrier-free access to regional parks. To request the services of CRIS volunteers, go to: adaptiveadventures.ca.

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You can experience the healing and restorative benefits of the forest through another Experience Forest Therapy program.

You join a certified forest therapist who will guide you to mindfully connect with nature using concepts of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku). Forest bathing, also called forest therapy, has been recognized in Japan for decades as an effective preventative healthcare treatment.

Each three-hour session in a Central Okanagan regional park costs $15 and runs on these dates and locations: Sunday (July 7), 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Scenic Canyon Regional Park, Field Road entrance; and Aug. 17: 5:30-8:30 p.m., Mission Creek Regional Park.

Your guide will lead you through each park at a slower pace than you might be used to (with a conventional park visit) with the intent to relax and immerse yourself in a forest atmosphere. There is a limit of 10 people per session so register early.

For more information or to register, contact the Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan by email (eeco@cord.bc.ca), phone (250-469-6140), or drop into the centre at 2363A Springfield Rd. in Mission Creek Regional Park.

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You have a chance to get up close and personal with Central Okanagan rocks, minerals and landscape features through a Geology Hike with a regional park interpreter.

A three-hour hike will explore rugged terrain in two regional parks and is suitable for ages 12 and up. Registration is required; hiking footwear is recommended; the hike proceeds rain or shine.

• Scenic Canyon Regional Park: Thursday, (July 11) and July 18, 5:30-8:30 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 3, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

• Johns Family Nature Conservancy Regional Park: Aug. 1 and 15, 5:30-8:30 p.m.; Aug. 10, 9 a.m.-noon.

For more information or to register, contact the EECO at 250-469-6140, email eeco@cord.bc.ca or drop into the centre at 2363A Springfield Rd. in Mission Creek Regional Park.

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In Central Okanagan regional parks, friendly dog ambassadors are back.

This summer, you will see them in brightly-coloured shirts at all popular dog hotspots, stopping by local beaches, parks and walkways from Lake Country to Peachland, talking with dogs and their handlers.

The goal of ambassadors is not to enforce dog regulations, but rather to act as a resource: educating and informing all dog owners about the Responsible Dog Ownership Bylaw as well as the My Dog Matters program and the free My Dog Park Finder feature.

They have dog leashes, bandanas and tasty treats to reward their new furry friends. Ambassadors are an excellent information source on everything from where dog-friendly parks, businesses and dog beaches are located to how to check if your licence is valid.

They’re especially helpful for visitors who vacation in the Central Okanagan with their dogs and may not fully understand what’s expected in parks and public areas, and where dog parks are located.

As well, during the summer months, dog control officers will be on patrol in vehicles and on bikes during extended hours. All dog owners in the Central Okanagan are reminded that they must have a current license. There is zero tolerance for unlicensed dogs in the Central Okanagan. Dog owners are also reminded of their responsibility to pick up and properly dispose of their pet waste.

If you lose or find a dog, you should contact the Regional District Dog Pound at 250-469-6284 as soon as possible so that staff can help reunite the dog and its owner.

Everything you need to know about dog licensing and responsible dog ownership in the Central Okanagan can be found at: regionaldistrict.com/dogs.

J.P. Squire, aka the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff, is a retired reporter. Email: jp.squire@telus.net.