Hiking and cycling enthusiasts wanting to explore the woodlands around Trail had reason to celebrate as the Kootenay Columbia Trails Society opened a new section of trail above Sunningdale this past Saturday.
The new trail, which will eventually link the Sunningdale section with the Society’s Bluffs trail and Miral Heights trail overlooking Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital, is the first part of a two-year project providing a safe, high-level route that will eventually cross approximately five kilometres of mountain terrain.
The trail access is on the water tower hill in upper Sunningdale. At this point the trail head is halfway up the hill at the hairpin corner but will eventually be moved to the bottom of the hill where it meets Marianna Crescent.
At the trail opening ceremony, KCTS Director, Hal Harrison, thanked the LeRoi Community Foundation President Adam Monteith for the Foundation’s role as primary funder for this project.
“On behalf of the KCTS, the community, and the fast-growing number of trail users, I’d like to thank Adam and the LeRoi board for their generosity and vision,” said Harrison.
Monteith, already a frequent user of the Sunningdale trail, described his attraction to the new route.
“It’s a great way to get different views of the area you wouldn’t normally see, all up and down the valley, looking out over the city,” Monteith said. “The number of people on the trail at any one time is amazing and it’s just opened.
The new trail, which was also partially funded by the Columbia Basin Trust’s Community Initiatives Program, gives users a chance to explore more aspects of the Columbia Valley and surrounding mountains and compliments the existing trail system surrounding Rossland.
“These trails provide a different woodland experience than the Rossland system, you get longer sight-lines and more of a transitional forest area, as opposed to Rossland’s sub-alpine coniferous forest,” said Harrison. “And the lower altitude means these trails are clear sometimes five weeks earlier in the spring.”
Although there are any number of small walking paths in the Greater Trail area, the KCTS trails are by necessity taken much more seriously than your run-of-the-mill backwoods deer trail.
The trails are required to have land access agreements in place with property owners, in the case of the Sunningdale trail Teck Ltd., and have to be insured before they are opened for public use.
All the trails must be maintained on an ongoing basis as well to make sure they can be used safely.
“These trails have to be built to a higher standard,” said Harrison. “They have to stand up to heavy use and some of the extreme weather events we sometimes see in our area.”
As with all KCTS trails the new Sunningdale trail is designated for non-motorized use only.
“We aren’t trying to exclude anybody,” explained Harrison.
“But these trails wouldn’t stand up to motorized use. The construction and insurance costs would be vastly higher and we just can’t afford it.”
And there is a definite indication that the trails around the valley are seeing considerable traffic.
The Society placed a mechanical counter on the Miral Heights trail that was capable of reading passing cycles. In a one-week period early last spring the counter registered over five hundred passes on the trail.
“Of course this could have just been someone waving a piece of metal back and forth in front of the counter to mess with us,” said Harrison with a smile. “But I suspect it may have been some of the real hard-core riders from Rossland come down to get an early start on the season.”