Jennifer Ellis
By Jennifer Ellis
May 27th, 2014

Few assets are as important to our local area as our extensive and unique trails system that spans 145 km. This week I caught up with some of the folks who help create and maintain it. Although Kootenay Columbia Trails Society (KCTS) has a paid year round Trails Manager and a summer Trail Maintenance Crew who play a critical role in maintaining our trails, KCTS is also an organization that exists due to the extensive efforts of volunteers. I met with KCTS President, Isaac Saban, and Director, Sue McBride, to talk about the wide variety of people who contribute to KCTS.

KCTS is run by a board of seven volunteer directors who are elected for two-year terms and oversee the efforts of the Trails Manager, undertake membership registration, prepare the newsletter and carry out other administrative and decision making functions. Volunteers also assist with the maintenance of the website and other IT functions. The Board also oversees fundraising efforts. KCTS is currently working on raising $300,000 for 17 km of trail paralleling Highway 3B from Red Mountain to the Strawberry Pass Summit.

Volunteer trail building is a key way that a wide variety of people contribute to the trails system that so many of us enjoy. KCTS estimates that people in our communities put in 4000 volunteer hours per year in trail building.

In the summer, volunteers can participate on a drop-in basis in the Church of Dirt trail building that happens every Monday night at 5:30. Currently, the Church of Dirt is focusing on building a single-track trail that runs between Centennial and the highway and the week before I spoke to Saban and McBride, fifteen people had turned out to help. The group meets at the Centennial parking lot for anyone who is interested in exploring this volunteer opportunity. There is generally a social at the Steam Shovel afterwards.

Trail build days are also a major volunteer opportunity that KCTS runs every year in both Trail and Rossland. This year’s event in Trail already took place on May 4th in Sunningdale. Gerick Sports sponsors the Trail event and provides draw prizes, snacks and water for trail builders. This year’s Rossland event is scheduled for May 31st and will be the tenth annual trails day. Patrick Kinghorn organizes the Rossland event and Revolution Cycles sponsors it. The event includes a potluck in the evening and tonnes of draw prizes. According to Saban and McBride, as many as fifty people show up to help out for the Rossland event. This year the trail building will be focused on upper Red Head, and there will also be a volunteer weed pull of Teasel on lower Green Door. The weed pulls are an important part of minimizing impacts on the private land that 90 percent of KCTS trails run through.

As I was talking to Saban and McBride, other members of the Board started to arrive for their monthly meeting. I asked them all to talk about the benefits of volunteering for KCTS. Their reasons included the value of meeting a cross-section of people including people from other communities, being part of an organization that gets stuff done and promotes cooperation among local communities, and meeting contacts beneficial for one’s business. There was also just a general sense of commitment to having fun and being outside amongst the gathered board members, who had all quite notably arrived right on time for their meeting. One of the directors observed:

“When people help with trail building, they take more ownership of the trails. There are lots of kids, especially sons and daughters of volunteers, who come out to the events. When people take ownership of the trails, they stay clean and well-maintained.”

McBride observed that as a newcomer to Rossland, volunteering for KCTS was an excellent way to meet people. “I basically met a million people right away.”

I left the interview thinking how much I use and appreciate our local trail system and feeling very grateful that we have so many people that contribute to maintaining it. Even if you can’t volunteer, buying a KCTS membership is important. KCTS generally has 300 paid members and is always eager to have more. When you buy a membership, not only are you supporting our essential trail network, but you also go in the draw for monthly prizes such as gift certificates from Revolution Cycle, dinners at local restaurants and Red Mountain lift tickets. Individual membership is $10 a year and it goes to supporting the trails network that many of us use. You can go to www.kcts.ca to buy yours, and keep up to date on all the KCTS happenings.

Jennifer Ellis is a local writer and consultant. The ebook of her second novel, In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation, explores the issues of a non-money economy in a post-apocalyptic future. The paperback is coming soon!

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