Canada is vast. Anyone who lives within its boundaries knows that.
Within those boundaries are all kinds of people with all kinds of interests and needs. It is because of the diversity of the people in each region of Canada and, more specifically B.C., that the Regional District of the Okanagan Similkameen has partnered with Cascade Environmental out of Whistler, B.C. to formulate a Regional Trails Master Plan. “The RDOS is asking residents to help set trail priorities in the South Okanagan-Similkameen by filling in an online survey or coming to a future trails open house,” states the RDOS website. “A Regional Trails Master Plan Committee has been created to oversee the plan. Committee members include volunteer trail maintenance groups, government agencies and other stakeholders.”
Last week Alix Pierce-Douglas and Todd Hellinga were in Princeton holding an open house at Riverside Centre to discuss trails. Members of the community were invited to the event to look at maps, find out about the strategies being used to develop the master plan, ask questions and offer their input. Local members of the working committee Kim Maynard, Vermilion Trails Society president and Kelley Cook, China Ridge Trails Association, Vice President have been meeting with the group at the regional board office out of Penticton. In total, there are twenty-six members on the committee.
Community services manager Mark Woods, rural projects coordinator Diane Vaykovich and economic development officer John Powell are part of the group as well as John Hawkings manager of recreation sites and trails, Keith Baric planning section head of B.C. Parks and hydrotechnical engineer Shaun Reimer of the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Recreation director Lyle Thomas from the Town of Princeton and RDOS is also part of the mix. Other communities represented include Penticton, Keremeos, Oliver, Osoyoos, Naramata, Kaleden, Okanagan Falls and Summerland.
Harold Sellers represents Trails B.C.. Other organizations and trails groups include Penticton and Area Cycling Association, ATV BC, Bush Pilot Biking, The Adventurer’s Club, B.C. Off-Road Motorcycle Association, Equestrian Riders, the South Okanagan Dirt Bike Club, Naramata Woodwakers, Summerland Trans Canada Trail Society, Similkameen Trails Society and Area D (Kaleden and Okanagan Falls).
“You’re the locals, tell us what you think,” said Cascade Environmental general manager Alix Pierce-Douglas. “What do you think? The best way is to have these conversations one on one with the locals.”
“We will be using all the information we gather to provide recommendations to the RDOS for future management directions of the regional trail resources,” continued Pierce-Douglas. “There is talk about a trail between Cathedral Park and Manning Park and many other suggestions and strategies these user groups would like to see and there is no way of consolidating or prioritizing requests without these kinds of discussions taking place. We need to look at where the urban centre starts from, what the trail accesses are that user groups are using. Kim and Kelley are the local proponents and they have both been great.”
“The end result of all of this is that this master plan will help user groups access grants,” added Pierce-Douglas. “We will have in place a respect based model where trail conflict exists and we will recommend alternate routes for conflict resolution in places where it is possible.”
“Part of this master plan is to put the onus on user groups to police themselves,” stated Hellinga.
“Each group needs to develop mutual respect for other user groups.”
“In absence of solution, there have been threats of total loss of access,” added Pierce-Douglas. “The next phase of the process is recommendations and prioritizing. By working together, it is hoped that solutions will be found that work.”
RDOS community service manager Mark Woods was pleased with the amount of locals who came to the open house. “We have had a great turn out. This project is part of my function within RDOS and I am really impressed with process so far. I am looking forward to viewing the final document.”