Seniors and people with disabilities were guests of honour for a special road trip on the back trails north of Grand Forks.
Fifteen members of the Grand Forks ATV Club brought several residents from Silver Kettle Village and Boundary Lodge Assisted Living in side-by-side ATV’s to take them on a journey through the backwoods for their annual Accessible Trails Day on Sept. 19. An early bird group met at Station Pub for lunch and to match riders with drivers before heading off for a drive along the former rail beds that make up the Columbia and Western Rail and Kettle Valley Rail Trail, taking them as far as the Sectionman Shed and rail tunnel about 14 kilometres north of Grand Forks.
Club president Doug Zorn also gave a presentation on the rail history of the area, pointing out the Station Pub used to be the freight station for the Columbia and Western Rail and eventually Canadian Pacific Railways. The rail line served to transport passengers across the region, as well as transport produce from the valley as far as Calgary and gold and silver ore from mines.
The rails opened up the area for settlement and commerce, he said, as people arrived to farm, do business, work the mines or heading south to the gold boom towns in the western U.S.
The main reason the club hosts this event is to be inclusive, said Zorn.
“Members want to show the beauty and joy of the trails to those who may not be physically capable of getting there themselves,” he said. “As an ATV club, we recognized folks really like to get out and enjoy an outing. We had our first accessible ride day in 2019 in this station pub. The people who have mobility issues, or live at Silver Kettle or Hardyview Lodge really have a chance to get out and enjoy the outdoors.”
To protect the health and safety of everyone, riders were offered masks over the dusty conditions, and helmets in case they needed one.
Another reason to have these rides is to show people the ATV Club does a lot of work to help maintain the trails, explained driver and club member Hal Wright. While taking Tanis Vergin and Jean Hammond in his side-by-side, he pointed out club members work to promote responsible ATV riding.
“Some people frown upon motorized vehicles on the trails, they think we don’t belong here or we are a safety hazard,” he said. “We help out a lot to grade the trails, clear fallen trees and other debris. We make it a point to be careful and give way to other users, like hikers, bikes and horse riders.”
Aside from outreach, Wright said they love to bring people out who would otherwise never see this part of the region’s backcountry.
“We do this for the smiles, mostly,” he said. “For a lot of people this is the only time they get to come out here and we get to show them how beautiful it is and the best part is you get different perspectives of the same place, coming in and going out.”
Every year the club puts together a video of photos from their trip. Wright related an elderly man they brought with them and watched the video who said it was a highlight of the year, then passed away shortly after. He said it was touching knowing they could give someone a memorable trip in the final months of their life.
During the ride, there was plenty of chatting and pointing out sights and pioneer history, as well as more modern sights like new homes and infrastructure. Along the way, signs were placed at points of interest, including the location of the old rail station’s roundhouse in town, as well as places with the best panoramic views of the Kettle River Valley.
Once the party arrived at the tunnel, there was a careful marshaling of vehicles to turn around and a quick rest break to get out, clean off dust and take in the panoramic views of the valley before the party headed back.
A second party went out in the afternoon for a longer trip further north on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail.