Teck employee Bill van Beek walks to work everyday from his Sunningdale home

Teck employee Bill van Beek walks to work everyday from his Sunningdale home

Trail’s historic covered staircases double as great fitness tool

Due to steep topography and limited transportation, staircases were needed to get residents to town, work and school.

An aerial view of West Trail may look something like a game of Snakes and Ladders, as long narrow roads are connected by a series of staircases.

Due to the steep topography of the west side of Trail and the fact that transportation was once limited, stairways were needed to get residents to town, work and school, according to Sarah Benson, director of Trail Museum and Archives.

Nowadays, residents may not rely on them for the same reason.

Tadanac resident Ev Cross walks the set at the Trail Memorial Centre frequently. The 71-year-old does four sets, approximately 900 stairs, once a week.

If that wasn’t enough, Cross rounds out her weekly exercise with a bike ride up the Rossland hill and even drops into the gym time-to-time.

“I’m not the only one either,” she said. “There is a lady from Castlegar, let’s see I’m 71 and I think she’s a bit older than that, and then there are two other young women who run it and do sort of sprints up them.”

Cross has lived in the area since 1966 and was always drawn to the steps but didn’t make it part of her regular fitness regime until this spring when she couldn’t get into the arena and opted for an outdoor workout.

“I like it because by the time you get down to the bottom, it doesn’t feel so bad so I go up a second time,” she said. “But by the fourth time, I’m feeling tired.”

Known locally as one of the “Graffiti Grannies,” she couldn’t help but notice some scribblings on the staircase and with help from some new recruits (Carol Ferro and Lauran Pettijohn), Cross recently removed graffiti and garbage.

She’d like to see residents take ownership of the Trail landmark, a vision shared by Trail Community in Bloom (CiB).

Dan Rodlie, chair of the beautifying group,  said there was talk of naming the steps.

“End to end it’s like climbing to the top of Mount Roberts I think,” he said. “Maybe (Trail has) the most covered stairs in Canada?”

The City of Trail has 63 sets of covered stairways, with the majority located on the west side in Columbia Heights, according to “A Guide to Historic Buildings and Places,” a publication released a few years ago.

See STAIRS, Page 3

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Today, if the stairs were stacked on top of each other, they would equate to 6,610 vertical feet, approximately two kilometres of stairway (Guide).

Along with the popularity of cars, the stairs were becoming under-utilized but over the last 10 years they have regained popularity with many citizens and sports groups using them for training purposes.

Although there are still some people who still use them to get from A to B.

Teck employee Bill van Beek walks to work everyday from his Sunningdale home, traveling the last leg of this journey up the same stairway as Cross.

“It’s a lifestyle choice, I want to stay active and healthy, and walking is a good low-impact exercise,” he said. “From a sustainability point of view, you’re not taking up more in the way of resources by the walk.”

Since he began at Teck in 1981, van Beek has chosen to walk, ride his bike or take public transit for the most part.

It takes him about 35 minutes to get to work and “it’s always easier going down than up.”

The original stairs were constructed in the 1930s to 1940s, most of them using rock and concrete, but others were made of wood. In 1938, there were 31 sets of stairs with an average of 88 steps to each set, totalling 2,728 steps in all. At that time, the stairs would have reached a total of 2,273 feet in a straight line. In the 1950’s, the stairs were upgraded and others were added.

It wasn’t until the 1980s when Trail began building metal roofs over top, which saved the city tons on snow removal as previously the staircases were hand shovelled.

The Rossland Avenue stairs, which lead up to Austad Lane, is the longest, single set of stairs in the city with 225 stairs with 24 landings. But the longest multiple set of stairs, consisting of four sets of stairs with 323 stairs and 17 landings, start on Spokane Street at Pine Avenue and lead up to Lookout Street (Guide).