Kootenay Columbia Trail Society plans a major expansion to attract new riders
Stewart Spooner of the Kootenay Columbia Trails Society (KCTS) has spearheaded an effort to build a new 17 kilometre bike and hike trail from Red Mountain Resort to Nancy Greene Pass. The intermediate level trail will be less technically demanding than other trails in the existing network.
“The motivation behind this big project is to make a trail that’s easier and more accessible than we otherwise have,” Spooner said. “We have some nice, easy trails close to town, but most of the longer trails further from town are for more highly skilled riders.”
“The idea is to bring people to the area,” he continued. “This significant expansion targets bikers, but it’s more accessible than, say, the Seven Summits.”
The trail would open mountains of possibilities, including a complete loop with the IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) “epic” Seven Summits Trail that runs from the trailhead at Nancy Greene Pass to the Cascade Highway and Highway 22 near Paterson. Whistler, Vancouver, and the Ganaraska Forest in Ontario are the only other places in Canada that can boast IMBA epic rides.
“It’s definitely early days,” Spooner said about the project. “We’re getting our regulatory approval in place. Once we have permission, it frees us up to move forward with other initiatives, to get on the ground and sort out exactly where it’s going to go.” From there, they can estimate a construction budget and “get out there and source funding.”
Five kilometres of the trail would be within Red Mountain Resort’s tenure, and the other 12 kilometres are on Crown land. KCTS already has a land access agreements with the resort and Red and KCTS are actively cooperating on the project.
“We have Red’s cooperation through their controlled recreation area,” Spooner said, “and we’re cooperating with their Grey Mountain development, creating a trail—or roughing it in—combined with their logging.”
The 12 kilometre portion on Crown land requires provincial authorization under either section 56 of the Forest and Range Practices Act to construct a recreational trail, or under section 57 for a trail recreation facility.
At Monday’s regular meeting, council decided to write a letter to the province in support of the KCTS initiative. Staff noted in their report to council that the Official Community Plan (OCP) contains policies that both encourage trail development and require stream crossings to be developed responsibly, both to safeguard Rossland’s water supply and to “avoid any adverse impact to the watershed, including fish and fish habitat.”
Council was very favourable to the idea. Coun. Kathy Moore said the trail was something the community really needs because there are a lot of “gnarly” bike trails already, and this one would appeal to “a broader range of users.” Coun. Jill Spearn liked that the trail hooked up to the Seven Summits—”our guiding trail, bringing people from far and wide,” she said—and the possibility for cross-country skiing too.
A brief discussion focused around Coun. Jody Blomme’s question, “Who pays for this?” City planner Mike Maturo responded, “It’s not on our nickel,” to which Mayor Greg Granstrom asked, “Is it in fact our nickel because we fund the KCTS?” CAO Cecile Arnott clarified, “If you’re giving them a grant in aid, you’re not saying how those dollars get spent.” Granstrom also clarified, “The trail is a good thing.”
Coun. Cary Fisher wrapped it up, noting, “I appreciate everyone’s opinion, but the leverage we get through the KCTS volunteer group is unbelievable. Regardless of the $20,000 or $30,000 in our budget, it doesn’t matter. The leverage and amount of work that group puts out is unbelievable. I just want to thank them publicly for all the work they’re doing, and for another great addition to the trail system.”
In a separate interview, Spooner responded to the question of funding: “It’s still at the early stages and we haven’t sorted out how we’re going to pay for it yet. We’re being creative with some things so far,” for example the cooperation with Red Mountain.
“But to be candid,” he continued, “It really just depends when it happens and who’s giving away money at the time—we’ll take money from anybody!”
Spooner was very optimistic that funding would appear in due course. “This [project] is really targeted at economic development for the area,” he said. “It’s a really appealing trail that will bring people to the area, so that opens it up to provincial, federal, and regional funds from various organizations that give money to communities to build capacity.”
Spooner called funding trails a “no brainer.” “It’s not controversial; it’s a feel good project with a nice ribbon cutting at the end,” he said. “And we’ve been fairly successful getting funding in the past. We put together a solid proposal and outline why it’s good for the community: local people love it, it makes people healthier, and it’s a boost to the local tourist economy because it brings people into Rossland.”
Maps of the proposed trail are attached below.