Makin' Trails

Thanks to a wet spring, flowers are still blooming along the panoramic South Spur of the former Kettle Valley Railway on the west side of Skaha Lake, above. However, poison ivy is also lush at this time of year, lower right. Leaves of three, let it be.

It may be a ‘sign’ of maturity but the Sheriff is now paying more attention to outdoor recreation signs in the Okanagan.

Our spring surprise was new signs on the North Okanagan section of the Okanagan Rail Trail banning class 2 and 3 e-bikes, now reversed for class 2 (throttle-equipped).

Then there was what everyone thought were new 15 km/h speed limit signs on the Mission Creek Greenway in Kelowna. It turns out they were replacements for old signs that no one paid any attention to because the maximum is so slow. Have you tried going 15 km/h on a bike?

The real problem when cyclists approach pedestrians from the rear, especially road cyclists who don’t have bells, and won’t verbally warn: “On your left.”

The completion of a wider sidewalk (and other improvements for $1.5 million) through Kelowna City Park prompted the city to issue a news release urging “residents and visitors to share the love on our shared pathways.”

“Multi-use paths, like the new one recently constructed at City Park, is intended for all people whether they choose to walk, run, bike or roll.

“A little courtesy goes a long way,” said Mayor Colin Basran. “Pathways like the one at City Park are open to a variety of users travelling at different speeds and users should always be alert, be heard and be predictable.”

Those sharing the path are encouraged to slow down and be aware of others before passing, to keep right and pass on the left. Those biking and rolling should use a bell when passing others.

When walking, check for approaching users before making sudden turns. All pathway users should move to the side when stopping, and check ahead and behind before moving across the path. Considering others, giving each other space and staying alert all help to make pathways more enjoyable for everyone, advises the city.

Kelowna’s shared pathways are busier than ever, says the mayor, noting there are more than 30 kilometres of paved shared multi-use paths in Kelowna, including the City Park Walkway, Okanagan Rail Trail and Houghton Active Transportation Corridor.

Colleen MacDonald, author of the Let’s Go Biking Okanagan and Beyond guidebook, passed on a bike-pedestrian etiquette guide she found for the Manon Trail, a paved 16-kilometre, bike-and-pedestrian pathway opened in Indiana in 1999 and which quickly became a national model for rail-to-trail conversions.

It has the universal recommendations mixed with humour: stay to the right, say “on your left” when passing, rein ‘em in (short leash for dogs), take it to go (dog poop), look both ways (entering the trail/at intersections), don’t litter, be predictable (look around before changing direction) and step off (when stopping).

The arrival of July meant even more people on Okanagan trails, as evidenced by cycling the Skaha Lake Loop (Eastside Road, McLean Creek Road and KVR Trail) on Sunday and downtown/Mission cycle on Tuesday. You have to cycle popular trails with caution.

BTW, Saskatoon berries were late due to the cool, wet spring but are now ready for consumption. South-facing slopes have the sweetest (blackest) fruit.

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The Penticton flow-control structure is releasing a cascade into the Penticton River Channel so it was filled with floaters last weekend. It meant a fast trip to Skaha Lake but also represents danger around bridge piers. Stay wide.

Shuswap River Ambassadors are warning that due to unseasonable high water levels, the use human-powered vessels on the Shuswap River (inflatables, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, canoes, etc.) is not recommended.

“There is fast moving murky water conditions with an increased amount of debris along with sweeper and log jams. Water temperatures are cold with unpredictable hazards. Use extreme caution when near the river banks, especially with children and weak swimmers,” advises the website: shuswapriverambassadors.com.

“Only access the river at designated spots. Many access points to the river are through private property, please respect the residents living along the river. Public launch sites have signage.”

The ambassador program educates recreational river users about risks, hazards, safety, environment, planning and respecting the river. The river is not open or closed at any point in the year but is strongly discouraged during high water (May to July).

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The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen recently installed five interpretive kiosks at strategic trailhead locations intended to highlight the extensive trail network and unique biodiversity in the region. The kiosks have regional trail maps, trail etiquette, history and local biodiversity information.

“These distinctive kiosks reflect the trains that once travelled throughout the Interior,” said RDOS chair Mark Pendergraft. “This rail history and the rail beds that remain are important reasons why these trails exist to this day.”

The kiosks, built by Vernon-based European Timberframe with support from Recreation Sites and Trails BC, are located at: Chute Lake, Okanagan Falls Trestle, McAlpine Bridge on Tucelnuit Drive, Similkameen Rail Trail in Cawston and on Road 21.

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Big White Ski Resort opened its Bullet Chair for summer activities at noon on Thursday with 80 per cent of trails “primed and ready to shred.” Extended play on Thursdays and Fridays means you can ride until 7 p.m.

The inside word from the trail crew is that Dark Roast, Hot Tub, Bermslang and Pry Bar are in mint condition and are the must-ride trails on opening weekend.

You can now prebook your rental bike online with plenty of options from regular downhill bikes to high performance to Enduro. The rental shop in the Village Centre Mall is also offering overnight bike valet: $10 plus taxes per bike

per night. Email rentals@

bigwhite.com.

Toonie Racing started Friday and will continue every Friday featuring a new trail every week. Register in one of eight categories: Juniors (U15, mixed), Youth (16-18, mixed), Open Men, Open Women, Elite Men, Elite Women and Masters (35-plus), and Adaptive Racers. Registration is in the Village Centre from 3-4:45 p.m. every Friday.

Racing is $2 (cash only) per race and a Race Series package is $20 cash only at the event. Prizes will be awarded for the winner of each category with an additional five prizes randomly awarded to participants each week. The awards ceremony is on The Woods patio at 6:30 p.m. after the race.

This year, funds will go to three local organizations that help make mountain biking in the Okanagan accessible for all users: MTBCO (Mountain Bikers of the Central Okanagan), West Kelowna Trail Crew Society and Kootenay Adaptive Sports Association.

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