South Okanagan residents can help set the master plan for trails used by outdoor enthusiasts with the regional district.
“Finding a balance that allows hikers, bikers, equestrian riders and motorized vehicles to use local trails safely and comfortably is a major goal of this plan,” said Mark Woods, Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen community services manager.
The RDOS is developing a Regional Trails Master Plan with the help of residents and a committee that includes volunteer trail maintenance groups, government agencies and other stakeholders.
Residents can get involved by filling out an online survey at www.clickhikebike.com. Through the website residents have already had a chance to participate by contributing information about trails in the region. Woods said every bit of information will help in the creation of the master plan, which will be a living document that allows trails to be continually updated. Eventually, the website will become a hub for people to find trail information and how to access them.
“This regional trails master plan is about a four-month process that we just started. We have a main focus so far to create tenure on all the rail trails,” said Woods.
Currently the RDOS has a formal partnership on the east-west section of the KVR Trail with the exception of within municipalities. Now the priority has shifted to the southern route, and the RDOS is in the process of pursuing the acquisition of former railway corridor to add to the 200-plus kilometres already under management by the RDOS and the province.
Cascade Environmental Resource Group from Whistler/Squamish was awarded the $50,000 contract from the RDOS in September to develop the master plan, from a list of eight proposals. They will help define the future direction, policies, priorities, standards and actions for the regional district and its partners with respect to existing and potential future linear parks and trails and support of a regional trail network.
“Trails are one of the fastest growing forms of exercise especially for us baby boomers,” said Dave Williamson from Cascade Environmental.
Tourism is also one of the big benefits to developing a network of trails and the website of where to find them.
Alix Pierce-Douglas, general manager with Cascade Environmental, told a group of about 40 people who attended Tuesday’s open house on the trail master plan that using the trails may be free, but those same people will spend money on accommodation, shopping and eating in the surrounding communities.
According to Cascade Environmental, the average age of a multi-use trail user is 45, a significant number are seniors, college educated, have an average income of $100,000 and usage is split equally between men and women.
“I don’t think there is that kind of split of 50-50 in any other activity. So you are able to market to everyone,” said Pierce-Douglas. “The RDOS is in a strategic position of being able to market itself as having it all and it really does. Trails will be a key component of that destination package.”
One of the key trails identified by Cascade is the Kettle Valley Railway. This trail links several communities and provides access to popular hiking, cycling, equestrian, mountain bike and ATV trails — one of the plan’s goals is to serve trail users locally while linking communities.
“The trails master plan will really provide us with a long-term, 10 to 15 years, vision on where we are going with the trails and how we get people from one community to the next,” said Woods.
“There are a lot of people out there that do a lot of GPS work and get out into the back-country. They have a lot of data and we want to try and capture as much as possible of that. It’s going to be a really exciting process.”
A schedule of committee meetings will be posted on the regional district website at www.rdos.bc.ca. for those that want to attend or participate on that level. Everyone is encouraged to visit www.clickbikehike.com and complete the survey.