Kootenay region presents challenges for Trans Canada Trail vision

Teck Resources has donated $1 million to complete the Kootenay portion of the trail between Trail, Nelson, Salmo and other areas.

It’s been a rocky road for the Trans Canada Trail Foundation to connect the Kootenay section of trails.

The Trans Canada Trail is one of the world’s longest network of recreational trails that when fully connected will stretch nearly 24,000 kilometres, linking 1,000 communities from coast to coast.

“The trail is constantly improving and adapting,” said Clive Webber, Trans Canada Trail B.C. coordinator.

“It is virtually a living organism that grows and evolves so in this sense, we can connect the trail, but we will never truly complete it.”

To honour Canada Day 2012, Teck Resources donated $1 million to the foundation to complete the Kootenay portion of the line’s unfinished section between Trail, Nelson, Salmo, Kimberley through to Cranbrook, Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford.

“Contrary to what I thought when I originally got involved as a volunteer, the actual process of building trails is much more than setting off into the bush with some shovels and handsaws,” said Webber.

“Rather, the path of least resistance is to utilize as much existing trail as possible.”

The Trans Canada Trail is currently about 77 per cent connected across the province, with a goal of being 100 per cent connected by January 1, 2017, added Webber.

He explained that the significant gaps in the Trans Canada Trail within the Kootenay region present challenges other than rough terrain.

“We are facing two stumbling blocks,” he said.

The first is that some desired routes, which have existing trail or roadways in place, run through private property and local trail stewards do not have formal agreements in place with the property owners.

“Second, in areas with no existing trails, we lack the framework to efficiently designate provincial roadways as our interim route.”

In areas where trails do not exist and opportunities for developing a trail is low, the foundation along with its provincial partner the Trails Society of BC, is seeking cooperation with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to designate roadways instead.

“This is an issue near Trail and Nelson,” said Webber.

“All of these segments utilize roadways at one point or another.”

The main focus for roadway connections between trail segments is to concentrate on creating safe routes for cyclists, as they are the core users of these types of connections.

“We would like to work with the province to designate optimal, safe routes,” said Webber.

“Or just simply raise awareness among drivers that they may indeed encounter cyclists along the   route.”

The Trans Canada Trail begins its Kootenay-Boundary journey to the west of Trail in Christina Lake, follows a rail grade up and over the Paulson Summit to Castlegar, then travels from Castlegar to Trail down the east side of the Columbia River on a section called the Columbia River Trail.

Unfinished sections remain between Trail and the Beaver Valley and out to Salmo, where the trail picks up on an old rail grade up to Nelson along the Great Northern Rail Trail.

On the surface, the trail is an opportunity to be part of a unique moment in Canada’s history, said Webber,  and Teck’s donation will ultimately provide the Kootenay region with better recreation avenues and improved lifestyles for those who call the area home.

“Locally, this is a great investment for our employees and their families who live and recreate in the area,” said Catherine Adair, community engagement coordinator for Teck Metals.