Makin' Trails

This week's Secret Okanagan Spot in the SOS series is Valley Glen Wetland, located just north of the intersection of Valley and Yates roads in Kelowna, above. It is a key part of Brant's Creek Linear Park in the Glenmore Valley — the most picturesque small-creekside trail in the city.

Spring has always meant new beginnings and new opportunities in outdoor recreation.

Mild weather in the Okanagan can extend from March through to November — depending on the year — so there’s no urgency to get going in the spring. But there are definite advantages to an early start — beating those late-comers to popular often-crowded trails and kayaking Interior lakes before the horde of noisy, wake-causing power boats come out of hibernation, for example.

So the Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen have combined exploring new trails with favourite loops — like the Pretty Ponds and Paths route, consisting of Brandt’s Creek Linear Park in the Glenmore Valley, Munson Pond off Gordon Drive in the Mission and the Mission Creek Greenway, all done on Tuesday.

To add to that, last weekend we checked out unnamed trails in Mission Ridge Park, Bellevue Creek Greenway (Collett Road roundabout east parking lot to Kincaid Road off Gordon Drive) and what we have nicknamed Nora’s Trail in East Kelowna (named after a neighbour showed us her secret trail).

The Sheriff started horseback riding in Kelowna’s Glenmore Highlands in the mid-1980s before the launch of Wilden residential mega-neighbourhood, but he returned Sunday to the still-forested Wilden property to the south while discovering Knox Mountain East located just east of Clifton Road.

The latter 65-hectare block was purchased by the city before 2010 but remains undeveloped as a park, says the city’s urban forestry supervisor Andrew Hunsberger. However, the Knox Mountain management plan will be updated this year and a public survey was initiated on the city website this week. With so much outdoor news this week, the Sheriff’s interview will have to wait until the next column.

While e-biking up to Wilden, the Sheriff noted the lack of a bike path on Upper Canyon Drive, the major east-west connection between Union Road in Wilden and Clifton Road at Magic Estates.

Gordon Foy, the city’s transportation engineering manager, responded: “Unfortunately, Upper Canyon is not wide enough for bike lanes; vehicles and bikes must share the travel lanes. The proximity of adjacent homes combined with steep topography would make it extremely difficult to modify. Over the last few years, we have installed calming traffic measures to try and moderate vehicle speeds and improve safety for all road users.

“Upper Canyon was constructed between 2008 and 2014, concurrent with adjacent development. The choices to include bike lanes and sidewalks would have been made at that time through the development process.”

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An update this week on a March 6, 2020 announcement by John Hawkings, director of Recreation Sites and Trails BC:

“The province is undertaking an assessment of the current state of the network of former rail corridors under provincial ownership.

“This assessment will include corridors managed as trails, segments of corridors within BC Parks, corridors used primarily for transportation as well as abandoned corridors that may no longer be accessible.

“Information from the assessment will be used to guide decisions and ensure appropriate management of the full network of former provincial rail corridors.

“The province has contracted McElhanney Ltd. to complete the assessment. Over the next few months, McElhanney will be reaching out to specific local government contacts, tourism organizations, volunteer and stewardship groups to gather information about the current status, use and interests in the corridors.”

This week, a Forests Ministry spokesman said: “The province completed an initial phase of information collection and rail trail inventories in the spring of 2020. Government staff from the ministries of Forests, Transportation and Environment continue to evaluate the abandoned rail corridor assets owned by British Columbia. The asset evaluation will be followed by recommendations for management and maintenance over the long term.” (Note: not the Tourism Ministry.)

In response to a followup question: “The province owns approximately 1,420 kilometres of abandoned former rail corridors. The majority are on Vancouver Island and the southern part of the province but this also includes the Dease Lake extension in northern BC.

“Some of these are rail trails; some are resource roads; some are largely unused. They range in condition from the Galloping Goose in Victoria that is paved to trails like the Slocan Valley Rail Trail that has a high-quality crush gravel surface to disused corridors that are largely untravellable.”

The Sheriff also asked: Trails BC would like motorized use by dirt bikes, ATVs, trucks and cars kept off certain rail trails. Is there any indication how many or what percentage allow this type of use?

The response: “Notable non-motorized rail trails managed or owned by the province include the Slocan Valley Rail Trail, the Galloping Goose, the Kettle Valley Rail Trail in Myra Canyon, the Columbia and Western Rail Trail between Grand Forks and Christina Lake as well as smaller portions of the KVR near Naramata and the Burlington Great Northern by Nelson.

“There are also non-motorized rail trails owned and managed by local governments like the Lochside Trail in Saanich, Okanagan Rail Trail and the Northstar Trail between Kimberley and Cranbrook. Other portions of rail corridors and rail trails that are not designated allow multiple uses.”

Those responses ignored the fact that the Ministry of Forests has allowed more than a dozen sections of rail trails to be converted into logging roads despite public protest.

Ciel Sander, Trails BC president, added: “We advocate for the rail trails that were invested in by volunteers and public funding for non-motorized multi-use, such as the Trans Canada Trail, (also known as the Spirit of 2010 trails) to be regulated as a non-motorized designation for long distances between communities.

“We don’t have a stance across the entire inventory of provincially held rail trails although because of their low gradient, we would recommend a non-motorized designation (active travel) would be the greatest public’s interest between communities. We … hope our organization would be brought into any management planning that is being considered. We do not support additional kilometres of recreational trail lost to additional logging roads or roads for motor vehicles.”

J.P. Squire, aka the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff

is a retired journalist.

Email: jp.squire@telus.net